There are four things I expect of the deer hunters in my camp each fall. First, I expect them to check over their primary deer stand to make sure it is safe (note: we hunt on private land so most of the stands we use are permanent structures). If during the past year wood has become rotten or no longer secure, it means pounding a few more nails or perhaps cutting some new wood to replace anything that has become a potential hazard.
Next, I expect my hunters to give this same treatment to some of the other stands that are used by the entire group. You see, many of us have our preferred deer stands…but through the course of the season we sometimes like to change the scenery just a bit by hunting in a different stand. So, for instance, if there’s eight of us hunters in the group we probably maintain close to 14 stands total providing us with some hunting options.
Third, I expect my hunters to sight-in their firearm of choice. If they are slug hunting I want to see them zeroed in at the range in which they feel they are most likely to take a shot. If they are muzzle-loader hunting and can take a 100+ yard shot…fine, just practice at that distance. The bottom line is I want all hunters in my group familiar with how their chosen gun performs in the field so they can accurately and confidently take the best shot.
And finally, I expect my hunters to make safe decisions that do not negatively effect another person’s hunt. In other words, I don’t want to see hunters taking risky shots or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that would disrupt another person’s stand location. We all hunt in a relatively small acreage (less than 160 acres) so gaining stand and geographic familiarity before the hunting season is critically important for each hunter. In each case shots made from any given stand cannot effect another’s location because we have strategically spread each stand out. But if or when hunters are on the move it is vitally important for other deer hunters know the general location of their partners to maintain this safety awareness.
Preparation in the woods for firearms deer hunting season occurs weeks and even months before the opener. Indeed, maintaining and sometimes improving stands to make them more comfortable is important. Yet, there is much more work that needs to go in to making a successful hunt than just sighting in the gun and fixing up the stand. Consider clearing some shooting lanes or even making some improved walking paths into the woods to the stand. As silly as it might sound, one of the things we do for some woodland “housekeeping” is to sweep the trails free from twigs and leaves. That’s right, in the early morning hours when you are sneaking into the woods quietly the last thing you need to do is make noise from sticks breaking or leaves crunching underfoot.
So, what’s a person to do? We use a power leaf blower to remove the heaviest concentration of leaves and debris on our trail to the stand. This not only minimizes the chance for making noise when the season is in full swing…but it also helps to guide a hunter’s way to the stand without using any light or marking tape. Even in fairly dark conditions a person can look down at their feet and see where they need to be walking to maneuver in to the stand.
Indeed, if you want to be a safe and a successful deer hunter it often starts by following a few simple rules, but also spending some time to take care of the little things in the woods that also need proper attention. With Minnesota’s firearms deer season still four weeks away, this past weekend was the perfect time to do some of these fine-tuning activities to ensure our fun and our safety for this deer hunting season. Success generally doesn’t occur purely by accident…it occurs because the people who strive to consistently score on deer invest the time necessary to put the odds of success in their favor.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.