Navigating Gun Season
With gun seasons chugging into December across the country, I figured it would be a great time to address firearms season for everyone. Whether you're hunting with a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader, I wanted to throw out some of my favorite gun season strategies in this article.
While I will throw a slight bit of shade at gun season from time to time, I truly do love it. I just love bow season a tiny bit more. That's just me. The overwhelming majority of deer hunters in North America actually prefer toting a firearm to the field, and there's good reason for that. Without looking at the numbers, I would almost guarantee that more record-book bucks hit the ground during firearms seasons than at any other time.
It's really just a numbers game. As more deer hunters are in the woods, more deer are going to hit the ground. Those giant bucks have a lot fewer places to hide out and remain unscathed. That's actually good news for a struggling deer hunter who has yet to fill a buck tag this season. Gun season can be an unpredictable rush that may yield you a deer of a lifetime, or it could leave you feeling like the kid who wasn't invited to the birthday party.
Nobody wants to feel left out, so let's cover some quick pointers that can help you to find success in firearms season. Wherever you may be donning the blaze-orange across the country.
Be There On Opening Day
This is probably a bit hypocritical for the guy sitting at a desk on a laptop on opening day of Ohio's gun season to be telling you this, but you simply have to be there for your opener. In my defense, I've already tagged a mature buck with my bow this season, and that's how I'd prefer to do it every year if I could. Otherwise, I'd be right out there with the rest of you guys braving the conditions. With that being said, there's no ability like availability. That's sage advice in life and for opening day of gun season. Please realize that most states report a bulk of their gun season harvests on opening day. That is not to say that you can't find success after the opener, but the first wave is often the best.
The Spider in the Web
Let's get to some strategy for our next couple of points. This is one of my favorites, and it flies in the face of traditional gun season thinking. If everyone else is out there blasting off shots and pushing deer around, I like to simply sit still and hunt like a spider in its web. In fact, I hunt just the same as I would during bow season. Hanging in a treestand or blind. If it's late in the week-long gun season, I may take the scenic route to my truck in hopes of a potential spot-and-stalk. That's a rarity. I absolutely prefer hunting from a set location and letting things come to me. Use the craziness on surrounding properties to your advantage. If deer can feel safe on your property, they may just flee right into your lap as the neighbors begin driving and creating a stir.
No, we're not talking about wide receivers running routes in a football game, but you can heed the quarterback's advice a bit on this one. Get to open spaces and get ready. It's a simple and proven pillar for success in gun season, whether you're hunting with a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader. With an extended kill radius, it only makes sense. Even more so knowing that you could have deer on the hop because of pressure from other hunters. You want to be in an area that gives you plenty of visuals, time for things to develop, and extra real estate to utilize your newly extended kill range.
Hunt the Mid-Day
This particular tip can vary depending on when your gun season is in relation to the phase of the season, but it should work well just about anywhere. It's always funny to me when I see the mass exodus that occurs at about noon on opening day of gun season. Everyone marches toward their trucks in search of a hot biscuit and some coffee. There's definitely nothing wrong with that, and you just need to get away some days. At the same time, I'd strongly advise staying in your stand if you know that mass exodus is going to occur on surrounding properties. You can be sitting pretty as your fellow hunters execute an unintentional deer drive for you.
Escape Routes and Bedrooms
This final tip is aimed more toward that hunter who is still grinding it out later on in gun season. Maybe you have been hunting hard over open areas and employing the spider-in-the-web tactic, but nothing has come of it. That's definitely going to happen, and it's a drawback to the less aggressive hunting style that I prefer. However, you can still keep the pressure to a minimum but position yourself for newfound success. I'm looking toward escape routes and bedrooms. Travel corridors that deer will utilize to get away from the threat of hunters, predators or whatever spooks them from primary feeding and bedding zones. I'm also looking toward those bedding zones. Once things get crazy on opening day and the season drives on, you can count on mature deer going deep to find peace and quiet. This is a great time to get as close as you can to a bedding area.
Bonus Tip: A Quiet Spot-and-Stalk
If you couldn't tell by now, I'm no fan of intense deer drives or hunting like a madman during gun season. My style is definitely a bit more laid back. With that being said, I know that a lot of you prefer getting on your feet and trying to make the magic happen during gun season. That's absolutely fine, and I'd never tell you that it's the wrong thing to do. In fact, I actually like a quiet spot-and-stalk in the right situation. I just make sure to take it slow and steady. Cruise down those field edges and be as stealthy as you possibly can be. Utilize great binoculars and spotting scopes along the way. Spot-and-stalk hunting may be the only way to go if you're hunting out west. It has proven to be successful time and time again, but only if you do it correctly. Think slow and steady over fast and aggressive if you get on your feet.
More than anything, make sure that you enjoy the wild ride while remaining as safe as possible. The beauty of hunting lies within the flexibility that each and every one of us is afforded. You may love to spot-and-stalk, I may love to sit on the stand and wait for things to come to me. We can both be successful at the end of the day.