So what type of hunter are you?
The question is did you count all the points of the racks of these mule deer bucks, that you jumped, or did you react to the eye and engage?
We all have a purpose to our hunt and our style of hunting, which is not always the same as others. It’s a cliché: 10% of the hunters may get 90% of the game but in my opinion that is really based on the how we hunt. This article includes some examples too make you think about your mistakes and successes. It may give you an idea as to how you stand vis-a-vis others in terms of methods of hunting and rate of success.
Yelling Out! Many years ago after coming home from overseas, I took my father hunting with me. We were hunting in western forest lands of Oregon with vine maple, underbrush, ferns and alders. The distance between us was no more than 100 feet. During this early morning hunt, I was jumping a number of Blacktail deer bucks at close range and would yell out “there’s one,” and Dad’s comment would be “where”? On that hunt, I could have very easily killed a buck, yet we did not get one. I wanted to see my Dad get a buck. As you might suspect the deer were on alert and took evasive moves.
A buddy known as MJ once yelled at my son because he did not tell him he was shooting at a deer, as he did not get a chance to kill one of the deer. I told MJ that I have taught my son to react to the situation. My son had jumped the small group of bucks in the draw. He took the shot and got his buck! Believe it or not deer do have great hearing. If my son had yelled, “there’s a buck”, they surely would have not gotten any of them. On this same hunt, I spotted a dandy 4X4 and said to MJ “there’s a big buck”, he said “where”? He did not get the buck, yet he had time if he had been paying attention.
Over the years, while hunting with groups of hunters situations I believe we create situations in which there are too many distractions.
Sharp Eyes and Sensitive Ears. Some years ago while on a Pronghorn scouting trip in eastern Oregon with a buddy that seemed to always fall asleep even on the roughest roads, I would catch sight of coyotes in the middle of an abandoned road or dry lake. I would say “there’s a dog”, he too would say “where” as he was trying to gain eyesight after dozing off. Coyotes can hear the voices within the truck. From then on, I just kept my mouth shut. When I saw dog (coyote), I would just push on the emergency brake (holding the release lever so it would not make noise), bail out and take the shot. My partner, still dozing, had no clue and would wake up and say “what the heck you shooting at?” I took 5 dogs on the trip, with him dozing off all the time. We still talk about that maneuver of mine.
Stopping to Count Points. Some years ago, an old hunting buddy had been successful getting a nice Rocky Mountain Elk bull off of the B.L.M. near the John Day River hunting by himself. MJ was pretty good about getting it done, with a partner or solo, but usually never hunting together, but taking routes in different canyons. On this particular hunt, he had run into my Commanding Officer in the Navy. MJ knew of Rod and had met him several times. Rod was hunting with an old friend of his. MJ said he would show them bulls in a basin he had spotted bulls earlier in the hunt. MJ lived up to his offer and put both of them on eight bulls at about 150 yards out. Well, Rod and his buddy saw the bulls and counted all the bulls’ points and finally decided (after the bulls took off running) to shoot! Moral of the story, be in combat mode and react to what the eyes see instantly and not over think! Game moves a lot faster than you can get setup.
Combat Mode. So let’s start off with the type a hunter, the person who seems to be always successful. He or she will have the hunt lined out the year before. Most of the time, the hunt is totally about them and getting it done. I like to call it the Combat mode of hunting. The mind is focused on the end result of getting the game down. In many cases they are solo hunting in the sense of immediate contact with other hunters. There might be a partner or partners, but rest assured they are in the field away from others. All of their senses are tuned into the surroundings within their space. The person that most likely can make the 300 yard running shot, or have his arrow clear a 12” opening in a tree and hit the 50 yard distance target… you can be sure he or she is totally focused!
Knowing Your Area. There are the party hunters (hunters only) that love to hunt together and try to do it every year at a specific hunting area. It is about the gathering, though each and every one of them wants to be successful on the hunt. They know the area like they know their own yard. I find that they are fairly successful in getting game, as they know the routes of the game over the years. They all have their favorite stand they will be at on opening morning. In this case it reminds me of the Hurley’s that once hunted the Pilot Rock area in Oregon. They setup their camp near Foggy Knob or Four Corners up on East Birch Creek. They always had deer or elk hanging in their camp. I know they spent more than 25 years hunting the same spot.
Generations Matter. Now the following camp is an example of some of my first hunting experiences with family and friends. Again we were “party hunting,” but with the spouses that either hunted or not (mostly not), but adding the young grandkids to the mix as well. We would have three generations hunting. I remember talking with my cousin about the good old days that his dad hunted; little did I know at the time, we just lacked the experience the old boys had. We would see one of the old guys coming back with game, having sat around an isolated campfire during elk season to keep ourselves warm. We could not understand how they got it done, as most old boys would smoke. On these hunts it was all about the family and good times. You always wanted to be the one to have the bragging rights that year on getting a deer or elk of any size.
It is the opening day of archery season, you got the jump on these bucks, have you released you arrow to the target buck, before they have reacted to finally knowing you are upon them?
Giving Others the Shot. One of the best hunts is the father or mother that shows their children how to hunt and give them the chance to harvest an animal. This could also go for a mentor that shares all their knowledge with youth or another hunter. In this case, it would be the time we had spotted a monster bull on the B.L.M., I asked my buddy who was also glassing and spotted the bull, if he wanted to go after him. Knowing how to get to the area that was about a mile off, with my son and his non-hunting buddy following along we got into the spot that was close to the last appearances of the bull. I had checked up wind and the area was clear, coming back to the boys, I said he has to be close. I let my son quietly lead into the juniper and sagebrush. JR, jumped the bedded bull at 50 feet and made the shot. The bull was bedded under a Juniper tree. What was great he reacted without hesitation and took his first bull with a gross score of 340. If there had been any hesitation that bull would have made it out of there. JR got to have the bragging rights of the biggest bull taken on a very successful hunt for all.
Just recently on a bow hunt, being in a tree stand I could see the bucks coming into the draw, JR was in a ground blind in the draw. I sat there in a daze watching all un-folding, I had the shot, but something told me it was JR’s hunt and not mine. He could have taken the big buck at 15 yards, but in his mind he knew I was after this buck. He made movement in the blind and the all the deer, but one scattered in the opposite direction. The one buck that caused the others to react, just stood his ground. JR took the 8 yard shot on that buck. Each person on this hunt was thinking about the other person and did not react to the situation. I told him he should have arrowed the big buck! “Dad, he was yours to take”
Pay to Play. So many times we see these days with the social media great pictures of truly great animals taken by hunters. When digging a bit, they are hunting on private enclosed hunting lands. In many cases large sums of money have changed hands to make the success of the hunt happen. This is about how much money one has to be successful. There is little more to be said on this style of hunter. Some years back I got a picture sent to me of a 430” Rocky Mountain bull taken in Idaho. What a great bull that was taken at 100 yards while in his bed. It took a while to get to the bottom of the story, but the bull was harvested on an enclosed 8-foot fenced ranch that sells the bulls by the inch.
Guides Help. There are many that want to only hunt on private lands (non-enclosure) with guides. In conclusion many times the hunter makes great shots on the game and I would say their success rate is around 50% to 100%. Again money is involved in the hunt and the success of the hunter. Most hunters would love to be able to have one or more of these hunts. To have a chance to hunt on a ranch that has big game and is managed for hunting would be quite exciting, I believe sometimes. On these ranches the only fences are the 5 strand barbwire cattle fencing…
Just Ask! Lastly, though the good old boys (ranchers) are slowing riding into the sunset, there still are some ranches and farms a hunter can just ask to hunt and be surprised that they might just get a Yes! They are normally working ranches or farms, with livestock, crops, orchards, vineyards or all of the above. Over the years I have just done the asking and got permission to hunt. In time I found that I wanted to return the favor and would give gestures of my thanks for getting to hunt these places. There is never the guarantee of harvesting game.
This Blacktail buck was on private property that I took the time to ask for permission to hunt.
A funny and very true ending to the last paragraph was about 10 years ago. I knew a rancher in the Steen’s Mountains of Oregon that would allow hunters to hunt Pronghorns. So I helped out one of my vendors and lined up the permission. I knew that the rancher drank soda pop and I told my vendor to get a couple of cases of pop and a new folding knife for the rancher. “Ryan asked me, “why the knife” and I told him you’ll know when the timing is correct. So Ryan gets to the ranch, met and talk with the rancher, the rancher was very busy and told him to go down the road a couple of miles and look for a cattle guard. Ryan was a bit lost, and then he remembered what I said. Quickly producing the knife to the rancher, he was then escorted to the place to hunt with ideas of how to hunt the area. Ryan was successful in getting a trophy Pronghorn. Ranchers and Farmers are not managing wildlife, yet they have a great influence on the survival of wildlife.