More deer lessons

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Hunting teaches you a lot. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have been able to get out so often and immerse myself in that process. As I’ve mentioned before I really started to get up on the learning curve this fall, and being able to move towards being more effective in a noticeable way just about every outing is a great, rare spot. Enjoy it, and write down those lessons so you don’t forget them them year.

First, try to see the deer before they see you. I only accomplished this on a very few occasions this fall, and every time it happened in range on a deer I wanted to shoot, that dear died. A lot is made of the hearing and smell of deer, and those senses are without doubt impressive, but deer seem to have in common with humans sight as a ruling sense. Winding a person may or may not spook a deer, but if they see unambiguous bipedal motion they’re dropping everything to run.

Second, hurry slowly. The first two deer I shot this year did see me before, or as soon as, I saw them. In both cases I was far enough away or came into the scene in such a way that I wasn’t immediately recognizable as a human, though the deer plainly saw something and were on edge. The window of opportunity does not stay open for long in these situations, and it is vital to have the mechanics of shooting in field positions down to an instinctual level, such that you can select the most stable position available, get into it, and shoot calmly, all quite fast without feeling rushed. Shooting targets in field position helps here, but hunting small game was for me by far the best practice. Dry firing at home in select positions (sitting, prone, standing slung up) is also essential.

Third, make luck happen. Knowing how to glass, how to shoot, and how to find and pattern deer make for a good start, but you’ll still need luck, and luck is way more likely to be in your favor if you spend a lot of time in the field. The first two deer I shot this fall happened after a relatively few hours, albeit in both cases based on prior experience, but the last took a long time to make happen. Even if you’re doing everything right, there is no substitute for time in the woods.

Last, embrace the obsession. I’ve always been a fan of doing fewer things better, insofar as the learning gets better and more valuable the deeper into something you get. Hunting is perhaps the apotheosis of this, with an infinite number of variations and subjects to learn coupled with a truly objective measure of success. In other words, hunting is hard, and should be welcomed as such. Get out as often as possible, be patient, practice, and research as much as possible. Watch everything Steven Rinella and Remi Warren have made. Read everything Patrick Smith and Steven Rinella have written. And many more.

It will all be worth it.

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6 thoughts on “More deer lessons

  1. “embrace the obsession. I’ve always been a fan of doing fewer things better, insofar as the learning gets better and more valuable the deeper into something you get. Hunting is perhaps the apotheosis of this, with an infinite number of variations and subjects to learn coupled with a truly objective measure of success. In other words, hunting is hard, and should be welcomed as such. Get out as often as possible, be patient, practice, and research as much as possible.”

    -Awesome. I tend to think about hunting in a similar way. I throw myself at one facet of hunting (could be elk hunting, deboning in the field, backpacking, dry aging meat or making charcuterie during the postseason) until I gain some kind of competence and then begin to focus on some other area that requires a lot of acquired knowledge. Revisiting and acquiring more skill & knowledge in those past areas of focus is always an option. All in all, it would be difficult to burn out on hunting as a whole. Burned out on deer hunting? Go rabbit hunting. Burned out on trophy hunting? Learn how to make Bresaola.

  2. Thanks for writing this Dave. I like the hunting twist in outdoors blogs. Hunting only blogs tend to be little boring to me…

    Regarding the shooting: How much did/do you train? In hours or shot (or clicks if doing dry firing)? Measured in dozens of hours? Hundreeds? Hundreds of shot? Or thousands?

    I have friends who compete in IPSC/Practical shooting on international level and it’s always a joy to see how they shoot. It’s incredible. (Weird to say something like that, but seeing people being good in something after huge amount of dedicated training is a joy.) Then on the other hand I know hunters who shoot maybe a few dozen rounds a year and still score a dozen animals or so… Trying to figure out the sensible balance here.

    • I started shooting somewhat regularly (mostly with a .22) about 2 years ago. Since then I’ve gotten outside to shoot at paper at least once a month; more in the late summer months leading up to hunting season. In those same months I try to dryfire at home every night, probably 20-30 clicks. Paper sessions I try to focus on quality over quantity, and usually shoot 12-20 rounds only.

      • Thanks for the info. I guess training for hunting is very different than for competetive action shooting. But in both cases training is needed for the best outcome. Daily drills sound good, you get confidence and “connection” with the gun in use.

        • I presume competitive shooters practice exponentially more than I do. At the moment, I’m comfortable with ~250 yard shots on deer-sized game, assuming I have a good rest. A very modest level of skill, which I’ll build in the future. I enjoy hunting, but only sortof enjoy shooting, so that’s a factor.

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