Is hunting all about luck?
I am sure that you have heard many people say that hunting is all about luck and that someday you are just going to get lucky and get your opportunity. I don’t know about you, but that sounds really discouraging to me. When I think of it like this, it almost makes me wonder why I am doing this and if it is even worth it. If hunting is all about luck then there are more than a few guys that I know who “get lucky” every single year they go hunting. How is this, if it is all about luck? What separates these individuals from the rest? Give up? Hard work is the answer that you are looking for. Many hours spent in the mountains and behind the glass actually learning about the critter they are going to be chasing. Where do they tend to bed? Where do they go to feed? What are their escape routes? How are they using the wind to their advantage? All of these are EXTREMELY important things that will aid in the pursuit and could be the difference between notching a tag and eating that oh so bitter tag soup at the end of the season. Granted there are some of us that can spend more time in the woods than others, but that is no excuse to not get your butt off of the couch and wear some boot leather down. I routinely will make day scouting trips, when time is available. Sometimes, I will even just go out for the morning or evening. You don’t have to go spend a week in the backcountry prior to the hunt in order to gain some valuable intel on that buck you have been chasing. Every little bit helps.
I can’t stress how important scouting is prior to the season. It truly is what makes the difference between seeing animals and walking around like a chicken with your head cut off. If I am going into a new area, I will pick out a few spots on my map where I think there is likely to be game traveling through. I will note things like saddles, water, and high points for glassing. The first time I go into these areas, it is nice to just walk around and get a feel for what is there. In particular, water is usually the first thing I will check out on a scouting trip to a new area. This might be just because I live in AZ and it is so hot here, but it is a great way to look for tracks, especially in the soft mud surrounding a water source. You can really get some good intel on what is utilizing an area like this. All of the obvious will be on my radar. Tracks, scat, rubs, and food are a few. Once I have surveyed the area with my boots, I will then pick out a glassing spot to watch the areas that I found while hiking around. Putting your time in is very important when using binoculars to spot game. I have sat on one hillside for 7-8 hours before with the result of turning up only a few deer or elk. The thing of it is though, I didn’t know whether I was going to see anything or not, because it was a new area to me. If I hadn’t sat there that whole time, chances are those animals wouldn’t have existed to me. That is if the terrain is even glassable. If glassing is out of the question, then a still hunting approach might be the best bet. You could also set up what is called an observation stand. This is where you set up a tree stand and just observe what is going on in the spots you are interested in hunting. Seeing critters from a tree stand never gets old.
Once you locate your quarry, pay attention to as much as you can with each encounter. How did they travel into the area? Which way was the wind blowing? Were they feeding or just passing through? We only get so many opportunities in our hunting careers. Make the most out of each situation. I have actually started writing down the things that I see in a notepad on my phone. This makes it a lot easier to remember the details that I would often forget. Many hunters will bring a journal into the backcountry with them. Not only is it a valuable tool in your toolbox, but it is a great way to break up the monotony of those slow days when you aren’t seeing much of anything. The more that you do this, you should start to see somewhat of a pattern when it comes to animal movement, which is going to be a big help come hunting season and a bigger help in the aid of you “getting lucky.”
I am not going to lie. All of this can be very time consuming and flat out boring for that matter. Doing all of this extra work is definitely not for everyone. But, I truly love hunting and being in the mountains, so to me, it isn’t time wasted by any means. I would rather be out hiking or glassing then sitting in front of the t.v. any day. What it comes down to is how much do you want it? How much do you want to succeed? There are many people that go hunting to just be on vacation and enjoy company around the campfire, which is totally fine. Then there are people that really do want to learn how to hunt and everything that encompasses it. Maybe, this is the difference between the ones that say hunting is all about luck and the ones that are “getting lucky” every year.