Deer season may be behind us, but a guest article was sent in by writer Jay Chambers over at Minuteman Review giving a few pointer on filling your freezer next season. – NCS
Hunting in the woods isn’t in any way the same as hunting in vast open fields. Just last fall, I spent an entire day hunting a funnel I regularly go to. There was a group of about ten or so does. I also saw some bucks but just couldn’t find the particular 10-point stag I was looking for.
Later that night while my hunting partner and I were discussing about where we set up our individual hunting stands, I realized that he unknowingly set up his stand just a hundred yards away from mine. He saw pretty much the same group of does I saw earlier that day too. But he didn’t see any of the bucks I saw. Not a single one of them.
I’m familiar with the trail all the deer take to my stand, and I’m pretty sure they were all moving past my bud from about fifty yards away. Even then, the thick branches and twigs prevented him from seeing the bucks.
The woods differ greatly from other areas where most hunters go to. Vast open fields allow hunters to see deer from a few hundred yards away. But those who hunt in the woods can sometimes only see a deer when it’s only about forty or fifty yards away, and in those distances they can hear even the slightest sound of clothes rustling.
I consider myself a veteran – I’ve been hunting since I was 13 and I’m in my late 30s now. I have more than two decades’ worth of critters – rabbits, coyote, hog, deer, even bear – under my belt, and yet, to this day, there is still the occasional deer I unknowingly spook every once in a while when I’m hunting in the woods and not fully aware of its presence.
To anyone who might not know how frustrating that could be, it amounts to an animal that barely escapes being turned into smoked venison, and me hoping to find another before nightfall so I don’t have to go home to the wife and kids empty-handed. Sounds like bad news, yes?
But where there’s bad news, there’s almost always a silver lining somewhere, you just got to know where to look. If you’ve only ever hunted in fields and want to try hunting in the woods, things are not that complicated — at least not as much as some seasoned hunters make them out to be.
Here are 7 tips to make your first time hunting in the woods a lot easier:
1. Bolt-action rifles are not the best option for hunting in the woods. The woods are not the best place for the conventional bolt-action. Why, you may ask? Bolt actions are long and heavy and cumbersome, difficult to aim fast, difficult to shoot fast and difficult to do follow-up shots with. They’re built for long-range accuracy, which is another way of saying they’re best suited for hunting in vast open fields. So tip number 1 which is very important: don’t bring your bolt-action rifle with you to the woods.
2. Bows are great – if you’re hunting from a tree stand. Compound bows are becoming more and more compact these days, making them lighter and easier to aim. And their design (the cams storing energy) inherently provides them with more than enough power to take down all but the largest game in North America, provided you use the correct type of shaft and broadhead combination. The only bad thing about them is you need to be real close (at most 25 up to 40 yards away) to guarantee a fast, humane kill.
3. Buy a lever-action rifle. If you want to be more specific, when you go to your local gun store, tell the sales person that you want to look at their lightest, shortest barreled lever-action rifles chambered in any hard-hitting big bore rifle caliber with a wide meplat. And if there are more than a few kinds of finish available on those, have them choose the most durable one so no matter what weather you’re hunting in, you won’t have to worry about rust. I personally carry my Henry All-Weather .45-70 Gov’t when I’m out in the woods.
4. Mount a low-power scope to that lever-action. You’ve probably heard of stories of hunters pulling up their guns to shoot deer from less than a hundred yards away only to struggle finding it in their rifle scope’s lens. Granted, the issue is that they inadvertently left the scope on 8x when they zeroed it at the range, totally forgetting to dial it down. When choosing a rifle scope for the woods, your best bet is a 2x or 3x, but if you want something a bit more versatile (i.e. a scope you can mount on your bolt-action when you’re out hunting in the fields), a 4x will get the job done too.
5. Bring a foldable saw. Any time you have a good field of view (such as when you’re on your tree stand) and you see twigs and branches that will make aiming difficult (if not impossible), you can just cut those with a saw. Foldable ones won’t take up too much room in your backpack or jacket so get one of those.
6. Mask your scent. When you’re out hunting in the fields where you typically shoot deer from more than a few hundred yards away, you don’t really have to worry about your scent. Your bullet will hit them before they can sniff you out. But when you’re hunting in the woods where you and the deer can’t see each other until you are only under a hundred yards apart, there’s a good chance it’ll catch your scent before you can see it. If that happens you can say goodbye to that deer. Thankfully, masking sprays aren’t too expensive. You can even use pine needles if you’re broke.
7. Beware of “buck fever”. This one’s a huge topic in itself and a lot of people have made their own research on the subject so I won’t talk about it at length, but just in case you’ve never heard of it before, “buck fever” is supposedly a phenomenon – it’s that shaky reaction most hunters have whenever they see their first deer. The reaction can cause someone to miss their shot. I’ve experienced it myself a few times but lucky for me, I’ve never missed a deer I aimed and shot at (at least not in recent memory). Apparently different people experience this “fever” differently – the most severe reports mentioned chest pains and breathing troubles. If you frequently have one, you might want to consult your physician.
Hopefully some of you find this post helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.