October 12, a day many hunters have been anxiously awaiting since the LAST rifle hunting season ended, in mid-December of last year, marked day 1 of 2019 whitetail deer rifle hunting season in Wake, Harnett and Franklin Counties. Whether you’re a novice or pro, it’s exciting to think about getting out into the wild, tracking, targeting and bringing down your first buck of the new season. We could all stand to brush up on our techniques, however, and learn what tips we can in order to get the most out of our hunting experiences and have the best possible chances at success.
Top Tips to Make you a Better Hunter
When to Hunt
Deer often feel more secure about coming out into the open to feed when the sun is about to rise, or when it’s becoming dark out. During breeding season, in particular, bucks are so interested in chasing does that they don’t always retreat at dawn to the bush to sleep as promptly as they normally do. At dusk, on the other hand, deer are focused on foraging for food and may not be as alert as they are at other times of the day or night.
It’s a good idea to arrive at a hunting location before the deer become active. Give yourself plenty of time to set up your position and be able to scout the area. Using a pair of binoculars will allow you to check out much more of the territory than you could by mere eyesight alone.
It’s also worthwhile to study up on the phases of the moon, interestingly, before you start your hunt. Although dawn and dusk are traditionally their most active times, deer are more likely to be out in the middle of the day if there is a full moon; their active and inactive periods often follow the waxing and waning of the moon.
Where to Hunt
Try to hunt in a location in which the wind, if there is one, is in your face. A deer’s ability to catch scents far surpasses our own, and if you have any hopes of being able to approach a deer without being detected, you need to ensure he does not sense your presence.
In order to give yourself the best chance of learning about and understanding an area in which you are hunting as well as the habits of the deer that live there, it’s smart to stick to a fairly small hunting area. Especially in the winter, deer don’t travel great distances in order to conserve their energy and have access to feeding sources they know and can rely on.
What to Wear
Because the nightmare of one hunter shooting another by accident occurs all too often, hunters sometimes – by choice or by law – wear a red or orange hat or some item of clothing that other hunters can spot, but deer cannot. Since they are red-green color blind, deer are unable to distinguish between true green-colored items and something that is red or orange.
Make sure you wear enough layers that you won’t get too cold on the hunt. Conversely, if hunting in a warmer area, don’t over-layer yourself with clothing that can make you hot and sweaty, and may encumber you as you try to maneuver around.
How NOT to Smell Like a Threat
Avoid using any products that are scented for a full day prior to your hunt. Don’t smoke, avoid eating any spicy foods, don’t drink alcohol… don’t even use soap when you shower, unless you’re absolutely sure it leaves absolutely no odor on your skin or in your hair.
Up to two days before your hunt, wash your clothes with an enzyme-based laundry detergent and hang them OUTSIDE to dry in order to rid them of any sort of scent as much as possible. Some clothing is actually manufactured as “scent eliminating,” with carbon fibers that naturally absorb odors. Store this clothing in a special carbon-lined bag to keep it as absolutely odor-free as possible.
Make sure that any personal products you use prior to a hunt – shampoo, soap, toothpaste – are scent-free specialty products. Keep your hair and any facial hair cut as short as possible as well, as your hair, not surprisingly, gives off additional smells.
“Don’t Leave Home Without It” Items
Insect repellent is your friend in certain parts of the country. Bugs in the wild are not only annoying but can give you away if you find yourself repeatedly brushing them off.
To light your way and cut down on the chances you’ll lose your way in the semi-dark, a headlight or head lantern is a must if you intend to hunt at dawn or dusk.
Safety gear such as a whistle, first aid kit, fire starting tools and an emergency blanket are critical for a successful and safe hunting trip.
Also, besides your firearm or bow and arrow, a skinning knife, rope, game bag and cooler for meat, too, are also “must haves” – not just helpful, but critical to the overall success of the hunt.
FOOD. A hungry hunter is more likely to jump the gun, literally, in going after a deer than one who isn’t hungry and pondering the next meal. Bring snacks and water, and plenty of each.
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