Rutting 10-Point Whitetail Buck
Rutting 10-Point Whitetail Buck

I’ve been an avid bowhunter nearly all of my adult life. During that time I’ve made my share of mistakes while pursuing whitetails and other North American game animals.


Many were mistakes every rookie hunter makes. However, some of the most humbling have been errors I made while knowing I was doing something wrong.


The following are several of deer hunting’s biggest no-no’s I’m guilty of committing.


Not Paying Attention to the Wind
Deer hunters know a whitetails nose is it’s number one defense mechanism. Yet not remembering this basic fact has cost me several good bucks over the years.


Don't even think about fooling this guy's nose
Don’t even think about fooling this guy’s nose

I started wearing scent control clothing over 20 years ago. Before that I washed my hunting clothes in scent free detergent and stored them in bags with baking soda or activated carbon powder. I also never enter the woods without wearing knee high rubber boots. I firmly believe my scent control regimen works. However, this attitude can lead to the erroneous belief that you can ignore the wind and get away with it. Newsflash – you can’t.


Forget what the scent control clothing ads say. Yes, today’s products work. My belief, however, is that they only minimize human scent. They don’t eliminate it altogether. My deer sightings and success rate increased dramatically when I started using scent control clothing. But they went to a whole new level when I learned to use them in conjunction with keeping the wind to my advantage.


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Not Learning the Art of Patience
“Go early and stay late” was a phrase my grandfather used when I started hunting as a kid. Back in his day there weren’t nearly the number of deer there are today. To be successful, old school hunters know that putting long hours on stand is a sure way to score on a buck. But even with record numbers of whitetails in many states, that rule still holds true.


I relearned a hard lesson about this recently on a Missouri bowhunt that took place just as the rut kicked into high gear. I had been seeing deer well into the late morning and early afternoon for several days. However, there were long lulls between sighting which gave me the false idea that they were done for the day.


I was soon to learn otherwise as a small 6 point nearly ran me over as he trotted nose to the ground up the fence line I was walking to get back

Bowhunter Making Use of Ladderstand
Think it’s time to get down? Think again.

to my truck. Then as I crossed a small creek behind a barn I parked next to a big 8 point exploded out of some tall grass on the other side. Had I stayed on stand 15 minutes longer both of these bucks may have walked into bow range.


Not Staying Awake and Alert
This mistake has bitten me in the you-know-what more often than I care to admit. There have been too many times that bucks and does have picked me out in a tree stand or ground blind when I snort awake after dozing off. Worse is waking up just to see a shooter buck saunter out of shooting range.


Keeping your eyes and ears open to the slightest changes around you is imperative to regular success. To solve the dozing problem I’ve started taking those energy boosters that come in small bottles with me into the woods. Have found these keep me awake and alert much longer than coffee.


Not Trusting Intuition
Ever find a setup that you knew was perfect for an ambush but then changed positions at the last minute? This mistake has haunted me for years after the biggest buck I’ve ever seen on the hoof entered a clear cut later that evening from the spot where I should have stayed.


Don’t overthink things. If you’ve seen bucks in a particular location more than once that is usually the best place to be. Sure, you should always pay attention to wind direction, whether your stand is concealed enough, sun direction, etc but more often than not your first thought is the right one.


Holding Out for Mr. Big
Which brings me to one of the biggest mistakes I make. I’ve been lucky over the years to arrow several Pope & Young class whitetails including one that just missed the Boone and Crockett minimum for typical antlers. I pass on immature bucks and sometimes does but have eaten tag soup more than once because I waited too long for that one buck I knew was out there somewhere.

A Successful Bow Killed Buck
Why pass up a good buck when you don’t have to?


The lesson I’ve learned from this is to not pass on any buck I would be happy to shoot on the last day of the season. During the rut you are likely to encounter bucks of every size, from puny spikes and fork horns to mossy antlered Methuselahs. If a buck meeting your minimum expectations gives you a clean shot, take it. That might be the only chance you get the entire season.


There you have it – my top mistakes and ways to correct them. Hopefully you can learn from my misfortune and be successful on your next hunt.

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