In the early morning darkness I made my way through a patchwork of snow and frozen leaves. My legs were going “zwish, zwish, zwish” like I was sawing through a two-by-four. Although I shot my first buck that day, I vowed never to wear corduroy pants while hunting again.
If you’re a tenderfoot in the deer woods, here are five basic blunders greenhorn hunters should avoid.
1. Wrong clothing
Corduroy pants are just one unwise choice for deer hunting. Another is cotton underwear. Cotton is great in a lot of situations, but cotton skivvies will soak up your perspiration and it won’t evaporate. One of the new moisture-wicking fabrics will serve you far better than cotton.
Blue jeans are another no-no. Wet weather will make them miserable. Dry weather isn’t much better because blue denim is one of the most unnatural colors you can wear in the deer woods. Research tells us deer have extra sensitivity to ultraviolet light, which makes blue jeans highly visible to them. For outerwear, choose synthetic fabrics, quiet fleece, or wool in natural colors.
2. Wrong smells
Every scent you’re exposed to will be deposited on your clothing, so don’t wear your hunting clothes when you change oil or run your snowblower. No smells are the best smells, but since that’s impossible, make sure the smells you carry into the woods will not alarm deer.
Stay away from strong, unnatural food smells. Raisins, nuts, peanut butter and jelly, apples, fruit juice and that all-important thermos of coffee are probably your safest bet.
3. Wrong gear
Don’t fall for the idea that you need all the best gear. Top end guns and gear are nice, but almost no one starts out that way. At the other extreme, don’t get a rattletrap rifle with functional problems. Buy a good used rifle in a common caliber and top it with a mid-priced scope in a reputable brand. If you can’t do that, borrow something serviceable. Make several outings to shoot it before going hunting.
Hunting isn’t a fashion show, so don’t feel like you need to dress in the coolest camo. Your footwear simply needs to fit well, support your feet, keep them dry, and give you traction. Borrow your basic equipment if you can, and make your long-term investments gradually.
4. Wrong advice
Experienced hunters can be a big help, but they can lead you astray. Some have forgotten what it was like to start out, and may explain things in a way you don’t understand. Others will try to sound like the experts you think they are so you’ll keep them on a pedestal.
Make sure two things come with every piece of advice. First, the person advising you should remember you’re a beginner. Second, he should give you confidence you can get it done. If he belittles your efforts, or assumes you should already know certain things, seek advice elsewhere.
5. Wrong expectations
If you don’t get a nice buck the first time out, you haven’t failed. Your expectations should be realistic. A dead deer is less important than being exposed to hunting in a positive way, learning about deer habits and how deer relate to the property you’re hunting. Enjoy the hunt the way an athlete enjoys his game — go home tired but confident you’ll do better the next time out.
You probably won’t be the rookie who stumbles into a trophy buck unaware of your presence. You might be the person who analyzes everything, makes a detailed plan, and still goes home skunked. That’s OK. Daniel Boone sometimes went home deerless, too.
Or, sometimes you’ll get a deer despite your mistakes, as I did. But did I tell you? I was 15, and that was my fourth year hunting, so be patient.
(When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.)