Setting Realistic Expectations for First Time Hunters

The Television Trained Hunter

You climb into your tree stand, bow/gun hauled up into the tree, equipment all ready, steady your breathing and within six minutes deer come bounding in from all sides, giving you your choice of perfect broadside shots from multiple bucks and doe. But no, you don’t want any of these… you want that big buck. The monster. One with the chandler on his head that tears trees down as he walks proudly through the forest.

Five minutes later… there he is. He’s wary, but steady as he confidently moves within range of you and then turns, quartering away from you as you raise your shiny, new Ruger American Rifle (for some reason the Ruger logo appearing in the lower-right portion of your vision) and with a smooth, all-the-time-in-the-world trigger pull, strike him clean through the heart.

He takes three running steps and then falls dead in the middle of the field. The other deer clear out as you climb down, high-fiving your buddy who was filming the whole thing as you go over and kneel besides your pristine, clean once in a lifetime trophy buck for that picture, “one shot-one kill rifle” smartly propped against your harvest…

That’s the way hunting goes, right?
Wow… have you been watching a lot of Outdoor Channel.

What a beginner deer hunter can expect.

Dragging about 300 pounds of equipment out to your tree stand, sweat pouring from your head, you arrive at your stand in the pitch black. Every metal strap, buckle and clip clatters against the metal ladder of the stand as you tie your equipment to the haul line. As you begin your ascent up the ladder, your entire setup creaks, pops, rattles and dings more than an old Halloween sound effects record. Reaching the summit of your stand, you sit yourself down and haul up your equipment, anything not triple-knotted falls to the ground with a crash.

Reserved in your decision to let it all lie where it fell, you ready your dinged, scratched and well-used yet endlessly reliable Remington 870 shotgun as you begin to shiver—realizing that the sweat upon your overheated body is now starting to freeze. Or in hotter climates, you grow woozy from becoming overheated and dehydrated.

Finally comfortable, be-damned the sweated-out loss of all the spray on scent blocker you administered to yourself, you sit and wait—slowly scanning the woods and field in your line of site. For seven hours your heart races with excitement every time a squirrel darts up a tree and as boredom overtakes you, you creatively come up with and mumble new swear words to yourself. The shotgun becomes a lead weight in your arms and only now have you realized that you neglected to load it.

Stomach growling with hunger and legs completely numb from sitting unmoving for so long, you call it a day and decide to come back tomorrow. You leave all your equipment tethered up in the tree stand because it will be perfectly safe there until tomorrow morning. the shotgun sling breaks and the firearm falls to the ground.

Arriving back at the stand the following morning, all equipment has been stolen and fresh deer tracks can be seen all around the tree stand.

The following day you revisit your stand with replacement equipment, climb up and get set for a third day of hunting. Three hours later, just as you could have sworn you heard a non-squirrel moving off in the brush, another hunter comes traipsing right through your hunting area and directly under your stand. He looks up at you, his own shotgun in hand and asks if you’ve seen anything. As he talks, he sweeps you with the muzzle of his gun several times and you also notice that his trigger is firmly planted on the trigger as he does. Resolute, he then stomps his way directly through the brush you just heard the movement come from. The woods go silent and then it starts to rain.

The following week you walk deeper into the woods to try a different location that might not have other hunters traipsing through it, bring less equipment with you and manage to learn a little from some of your mistakes. You still don’t see any deer for the next two days, but you’re confident that you’ve learned from your mistakes.

The following week, you are still learning from your mistakes and walk what feels like seventeen miles into the woods in the pitch dark, get set up in your stand, manage to stay somewhat stealthy and finally…FINALLY see a deer.

The deer will be the wrong sex or the wrong size.

The next deer will be the right sex and size but will never present you with a clean shot.

The next deer will give you a good shot, but you will misjudge the shot with your deer slug and miss the animal.

The next deer will be a good shooter, you’ve decided to bring buck shot shells this time, take the shot—hit the deer and it runs off into the woods—but then it begins to rain again and you lose the trail and can’t recover the animal. Here’s where you trip and the muzzle of your shotgun sinks 6 inches deep into the mud.

The next one you have a great blood-trail to track but it gets too dark, so when you take up the tracking again the next morning you find that the deer was dragged off and eaten by coyotes, OR, you find the deer only partially eaten by coyotes and then have to gut whats left of it and you screw it up, getting hair and entrails all over the meat. Then you realize that you’ll need to drag the carcass the seventeen miles out of the woods to your car.

Did you remember to bring plastic to line the trunk of the car? This is when you wonder why the hell it is that you wanted to do this.

Think I’m exaggerating? At one point or another, each and every horrible occurrence mentioned here has happened to me. Sure, I’m an old pro at it now, but if you think that a few hunting shows and your brand new, starchy hunting camo, fresh off the rack from Cabelas and the most uber-expensive Benelli shotgun/Tika .308/Mathews bow is all it takes to become a good deer hunter…then take my advice—spend less time in front of the cable box and more time asking questions of real hunters and more time in the woods. Become a better hunter by hunting and not by watching tv.

Lastly it's important to stay safe while hunting, take a look here: Carrying A Backup Handgun while Hunting



About The Author

Richard Bogath is an NRA certified firearms instructor, certified hunter instructor, youth league pistol coach, professional hunting guide, published author, writer for several online publications about firearms, blogger, lecturer and proud dad. When not performing any of these fun activities, he is a successful e-commerce business consultant.