IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LITTLE THINGS

by Ted Nugent

My eyes nearly bulged out of my hairy little head. Dear Lord in heaven, there were beautiful big game animals seemingly everywhere. A quartet of stunning spotted axis stags stood a hundred yards yonder, standing there looking at us. Six or seven darn nice whitetails were just beyond them, casually filtering in and out of the bushy scrub. We hadn’t driven a hundred yards when a gorgeous white horned sika stag stuck his head out of a cedar thicket twenty yards off the trail. In a short thirty minute drive, I had seen more amazing big game animals than I would normally see in an entire season on average when I first started hunting. And many of these critters seemed to be so relaxed, I was aghast that it couldn’t possibly be for real.

For a guy who started bowhunting back in the 1950s, I struggled to process the information that had just smacked me between the frontal lobes. It was one of my first adventures in the wilds of the amazing Texas’ Hill Country, and I was about to implode with excitement as I was being led to my afternoon treestand.

The vast open range of this private hunting ranch was loaded with more than twenty five species of indigenous and exotic big game animals, and they were apparently in abundant numbers. Only a few bowhunters had ever hunted this place, and I was invited to sample their hunting to offer my advice on how to set it up for optimal bowhunting.

The pickup chugged up a bumpy, rocky two track road and pulled to a halt where an endless ridge of thick cedars broke off into a desert flat of prickly pear cactus and barren rocky ground. My guide pointed to a lone mesquite tree with a metal tripod wedged into the branches, and told me this was the hot spot for aoudad rams, axis deer, sika, fallow and whitetail galore. He said the feeder was to the north a short ways and would go off around sunset and I should be covered up with critters.

I am telling you, I was more excited than I think I had ever been. I said thank you and hustled over to the tripod as my guide motored off.

When I got to the stand, I became somewhat concerned, for the old tripod was nearly rusted out, and I was actually scared as I climbed aboard the squeaky, swaying, dangerously unstable stand. With no tow rope, I clung to my bow as every step created all kinds of racket, and it got even worse when I settled into the cracked, chipped noisy seat.

I didn’t feel comfortable at all and was actually spooked that I wouldn’t be able to remain steady when attempting to draw back my bow. But I needn’t had worried, for I was completely skylighted eight feet off the ground, with the sun blazing on my face, making my whole body glow against the shiny blue sky. No way would any animal not see me up here.

Next thing I immediately noticed was that the steady breeze was blowing straight for the feeder, which was not a short ways away, but rather a good forty five yards away. Under the feeder was a deep depression, void of any vegetation within fifteen yards.

I furrowed my brow, squinted my sunburned eyeballs and wondered how in the hell anyone with the most minimal basic of hunting knowledge 101 could possibly think this set up could work.

I shifted my weight best that I could to minimize the squeaking, creaking, noisy old stand, nocked an arrow and hoped for the best.

Many animals were seen coming and going in all directions nonstop, but the feeder never went off, and nothing came anywhere near my strange anti-ambush spot. Right around sunset I was shocked to see my guide driving up in his noisy pickup, right at the magic bewitching hour that all hunters wait for and put in the hours for. I walked over to the feeder to discover that it was empty, and the battery was dead, and it appeared it hadn’t thrown any corn in a long, long time.

To say I was perplexed is a gross understatement. Making matters much worse, when I asked my guide how it was that the feeder wasn’t working and was much too far away for a decent bowshot, that my stand was unsafe and noisy as all hell, that the sun made me glow with no background cover at all and that the wind was the worst possible for this stand location, that his truck’s muffler announced to the world where we had gone, and that his Aqua Velva aftershave was like an olfactory warning alarm going off, he got his panties in a wad and scoffed me off like I didn’t know what I was talking about. How dare a long haired Yankee bowhunter try to tell a real honest to God Texas ranching cowboy how to kill critters on his grounds?

Yikes! My view of Texas took a very ugly turn for the worse that frightful day, I’m here to tell you.

So the lessons here my friends are mighty obvious. Stealth, safety, silence, wind, sun, background cover, maximum advantage bow shot distance to anticipated animal activity, feeders that are full and operational, decent ground vegetation so the animals have confidence to show up and move about, scent control by all players, don’t quit hunting until all shooting light or legal shooting light is over.

Big fun, happy and successful hunts, gratifying time afield and backstraps come to those who pay attention to the plethora of little details. I assure you, the critters are paying attention to every little detail, and if they pay more attention than we do, they win.  I like it when I win better, so I leave nothing to chance. Even when we do everything perfect to the best of our ability, that mystical sixth sense of the beast can turn the tables on the best of us. Think hard, think like a predator, think like an animal, learn your lessons well, and eventually backstraps will be yours. Details, details, details. Cover them all and hunt like you mean it. Me, I’m addicted to backstraps baby. I hunt to win. I hunt to kill.