There are key, fundamental lessons every hunter needs to learn. Every time you go out hunting, you probably learn something new. If you’re not learning something new, you’ll never become a better hunter. I once had a basketball coach that said, “The only way we can lose is if we don’t learn from our mistakes.” With that in mind, I’m going to list the top three hunting lessons every hunter needs to learn. This list may be very different from what some may think, but they’re key principles that I believe will make the difference between tagging out and tag soup.
1. The wind is king
It doesn’t matter that you’re wearing $3,000 worth of camo, or that you have a $7,000 custom made rifle in your hands. You will not harvest an animal if you don’t play the wind right. By this I mean the wind should always be in your face or at least coming at a cross angle. If the wind is at your back, then it’s game over. Deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, pretty much all animals you can hunt have a nose that is a thousand times stronger than that of a humans. They’ll smell you long before they hear or see you. The only way to hunt them is if the wind is carrying your scent away from the animal. Play the wind right and your sure to up your chances of filling your tag.
2. Glass, glass, glass, and glass some more
If you’re new to the hunting world, “glassing” means looking through binoculars or a spotting scope to find animals that are far away. Once you know the terrain well enough, and after you study maps of water sources, way points, and feeding areas, you now need to go out and find the animal. More than likely you are not going to accidentally bump into one as you’re walking through the woods. The best way to find them is by glassing. Get to a vantage point, pull out your binoculars and some sunflower seeds, and get ready to sit. Now you have to stay and continue to glass until you pick apart every square foot of the hillside.
There’s a saying among some hunters that goes, “The difference between a hunter and a killer is that a killer never leaves his glass.” Many times hunters glass for what they think is a long time and after they don’t see anything begin hiking through the hillside that they were glassing and spook several animals that were hidden in the shadows and brush of the mountain. If the hunters would have just glassed a little longer and with a little more detail, they probably would have been able to find these animals and make an attempt at harvesting them.
3. Go where the animals are, not where it’s convenient
We live in a world that is spoiled with having everything accessible at the fingertips. When hunting, nothing is ever taken that easily. You need to understand that if you want to tag out on a mature bull elk, or a giant mule deer, or a once-in-a-lifetime animal, you need to go where they are and not where you want to be. This is going to push you outside your comfort zone a little bit.
Say you are on a three-day hunt chasing rutting bull elk. You’ve worked your butt off trying to find a good mature bull but you haven’t had any luck. On the last day you feel discouraged and decide to go home a little early. You begin walking back towards your truck. When you’re almost back to your truck, you hear a bugle about a mile and a half away at the bottom of a steep, rocky canyon. What do you do? Do you say, “Nah, it won’t be worth it going down there,” or do you say, “Yes! Finally, some elk. Let’s go get him!” Again, one of these is what a hunter may say, the other is what a killer would say. If you want to actually bring some meat home, you better get down to that canyon and make a play on that bull.
As I mentioned before, this list of lessons every hunter needs to learn is different depending on who you ask. However, the principles are sound. Follow these three tips and you’re off to a great start.