As I sat on my deer stand during the Dec. 2 season opener, I wondered if I was doing it all wrong.
I had been on stand – the same one I've used for nearly 20 years – for several hours and had seen three does. There was snow on the ground, no wind and the woods were quiet. I wondered if I would be better sneaking around a bit or even moving to a different stand on the property that I hunt.
But I stayed.
Shortly before noon I was passing the time watching a doe browse contently not far away. Suddenly, she raised her head and stared intently into the woods behind me.
Taking a cue from the deer, I slowly turned and saw three bucks sneaking through the tangle of a fallen tree. One was legal. I waited until the legal buck offered a clear broadside shot, found it in my scope and squeezed the trigger.
I'm glad I waited.
Some hunters team up to put on drives, others stillhunt and some just sit and wait. There are hunters who walk several miles back into the woods while others post in a small woodlot between farm fields.
My success on that day led me to the conclusion that there's really no wrong way to hunt deer.
Whatever your chosen method, they all work. As long as you have an enjoyable day afield, that’s really all that matters.
I climb up into my treestand in the predawn darkness, and that’s where I’ll stay until I either get a deer or quitting time rolls around. For me, when it comes to the opening day of the rifle season, my method of choice is to simply sit.
I’ve done it that way for years, sitting through frigid temperatures, snowstorms and even downpours.
Why? Well, there are a couple reasons.
With more than 750,000 hunters in the woods on opening day, there are plenty of other people walking around and pushing deer. Often, that works in my favor as I sit still in my stand knowing sooner or later I am likely to see a deer that someone else kicked out.
But the bigger reason why I sit on opening day is I enjoy letting the natural world go about its business without any interruption. Once in my stand, the woods soon settle and it’s like I’m not even there.
This approach has allowed me to witness several close encounters with wildlife that never suspected my presence.
I’ve had bears walk unknowingly right below my stand, turkeys feed under the grapevines behind me and once had a late-migrating red-tailed hawk land on a limb above me.
I’ve watched a red fox mousing in a nearby field, glimpsed a coyote just before it spotted me and stared at an opossum as it swerved across the forest floor, it’s nose to the ground searching searched for something to eat.
And, of course, I’ve seen plenty of deer.
Some believe that it’s easy just to go into the woods, sit, and wait for a deer to walk by. It’s not. By sitting, you are basically exposing yourself to the elements, and they can be harsh at times.
During the first week of the season quite a few years ago, the temperature where I hunted never climbed out of the single digits.On stand, my fingers grew numb and I shivered constantly – stopping only when a deer came within sight.
I’ve had cold rain pour down my back and snowflakes accumulate on my head. But I refused to move because when it comes to deer season, you never know what is going to suddenly appear from out of nowhere.
And that, perhaps, is the biggest reason why I not only sit and wait for deer, but why I hunt them in the first place. It’s the unknown.
Is that sound of something headed in your direction a monster buck? Was that flicker of movement in the brush a deer? Did the person who just fired a shot miss a big buck that is now heading in my direction?
If deer hunting became predictable I probably wouldn’t do it anymore. But it never will. There will always be that element of surprise. And that’s something all hunters strive for – whether they drive, walk or sit.
There’s no wrong way to do it.