The more time you spend in the woods, the more you will find that the magic bullet to hunting isn’t a bullet at all—it’s 100% hard work. Nothing will put a deer on your wall with more consistent results. Believe it or not, adding a hefty dose of physical and mental grind will, on top of yielding results, add a sense of pure satisfaction at the end of the day.
When you’re in the market for new gear, search with a purpose in mind. There’s a tool for every job, but the old faithful ones will often get the job done better than the latest gimmick.
For example, take a trip through the grocery store. You will find a veggie chopper, a mango slicer, a pineapple core tool, etc. But have you ever seen a talented chef using one of those tools? I sure haven’t. I have seen them use the sharpest knife they could find and use it with machine-like precision.
A good chef knows how to handle their tools. When you take the time to become proficient with your hunting gear, like a chef with Samurai-level knife skills, your results won’t disappoint.
Forget what you heard about wearing rubber boots. They are trendy and all the rage in the world of deer hunting. The reasons for this trend usually have to do with thoughts around scent control. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, try wearing knee-high rubber boots on a long hike. Give them a whiff after that hike. Trust me, the idea that rubber boots help control scent will go out the window real fast. You will quickly learn that what you are losing in contact scent you’re likely doubling in wind-borne scent.
There are settings where the waterproof rubber boots simply outweigh their smelly shortcomings. Areas with swamps are a great example. Nothing compares to dry feet at the end of a long walk through a mucky wetland. Boot gaiters will hold up while crossing creeks most of the time. But in boggy areas, rubber boots serve their purpose.
I’m not trying to sell you high-end hunting boots. The pair I own certainly isn’t top-shelf. But boots should be breathable, comfortable, and durable. In most upland settings that involve a lot of walking, lightweight hikers are a suitable option for the mobile hunter.
Uninsulated boots are also a valid option. Check out our buddy from The Whitetail Experience, Byron Horton. He had the perfect idea when he cut a wool sock in half and put it around the toe box of his boot to serve as insulation. While nothing is stopping you from buying a pair insulated boots, this trick will take you through the beginning of November.
- Range Finder
I remember the days of stepping out twenty paces to a cardboard target. I would do this over and over until I learned to gauge the distance. Short ranges became easy to judge and even accurate.
Learning to judge distances is helpful, but mistakes often happen at ranges farther than twenty or thirty yards. Add an adrenaline rush at the sight of a deer, and the judgment hurdle will increase.
Sometimes a fast change-up is needed, so I encourage you to invest time in estimating ranges. But as for a range finder, there simply is no substitute. It’s a valuable tool in your pack and one you shouldn’t be without. Take it from someone who watched plenty of arrows breeze harmlessly under plenty of bellies before arrowing my first buck. It will save you plenty of heartaches.
Of course, it can be challenging to remember to range a deer as it enters a shooting lane. Dumb the encounter down a little by ranging obvious landmarks after you get settled into your stand. That way, when the time comes, you’ll have backup confirmation.
- Mobile Setup
Mobile hunting needs no intro on this page. It’s the most popular topic in the current whitetail space. Whether you hunt from the ground, a saddle, or a hang-on tree stand, it’s good to know what you’ll need for your hunting area.
These pieces of gear are the final touches that will get you close to an animal. Know them well, and they will serve you well. Take some moments during your scouting efforts to learn what you’ll need in order to blend into your surroundings. If hunting from the ground is your thing, then learn to build make-shift ground blinds quickly. Or better yet, carry a lightweight, portable blind that you can brush in with whatever is legal in the state you’re hunting.
Glass in the field is a must-have. Can you hunt without it? Sure, but you will be missing a lot of crucial intel that you could be learning in live time. Seeing what deer are feeding on without disturbing the area can give you a leg up for your next hunt.
When I’m hunting, I carry a compact pair of binos that do that job and take up little space. As for scouting, I never leave my truck without a 10 x 42 or 12 x 50. There isn’t a more important tool for scouting. They are comparable to the job a birddog serves on a pheasant hunt. They work the landscape in front of you and flush everything out that you might otherwise walk past.
Want a far-from-the-parking-lot adventure? Get a mountain bike! Take it from a guy who knows, they aren’t necessarily easier than walking, but they will get you where you want to go much faster. That matters a lot when you want to get way into the backcountry. It’s especially crucial when you want to pack a deer out and need to take more than one long trip.
Bikes serve a purpose for scouting when you want to bounce from one spot to another without killing too much time. It’s also easier to be stealthy on a mountain bike. Take a ride down a leaf-covered road and compare it to walking; you will make much less disruptive noise. The noise of bike wheels is confusing to deer and is also less startling than human footsteps.
Milkweed is likely already a staple in your pack if you follow Truth From the Stand, The Hunting Beast, or any other public land-focused deer hunting platform. If it’s not part of your arsenal, and you don’t know why it should be, the explanation is simple: Deer use the wind to survive. You’ve done the work to find where they’re living, done the job to get close enough to kill one, and now you need the best advantage you can get.
A deer’s nose will keep that deer alive 99 percent of the time. Milkweed is your way of knowing if you can beat the odds and fool that deer’s nose. Throw a few pieces in the air, and you are now learning how to overcome the biggest hurdle for all whitetail hunters.
Use milkweed in the areas you scout and also while hunting. You will be amazed how often wind currents react to weather, foliage, and terrain changes. You will also learn to read a deer’s body language in reaction to those changes.
Not sure how to interpret thermals? Make sure you’re throwing milkweed every thirty minutes to an hour on every hunt until you’ve learned to solve them.
No piece of gear can replace hard work and time in the field. But with the proper application, equipment can give you the edge you need.
Many products promise to deliver deer directly down range of your bowstring. Those things are often too good to be true. Stick with gear that will complement and enhance your style, and you won’t go wrong.