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7 Sins That’ll Cost You a Buck on Opening Day

Brodie Swisher

early season whitetail buck

With hunting seasons opening up across the country, it’s time to climb back in the stand in hopes of notching a tag on the buck we’ve planned and prepared for all summer long.  We’ve got our weapons dialed, camo cleaned, and our gear fine-tuned for going to battle with big bucks over the next 3 months. Unfortunately, despite all the planning and preparation, many hunters will fall short on opening day. Here’s a look at the 7 sins that’ll cost you a buck on opening day. 

1. Sleeping In

Despite all the excitement that comes with opening day, many hunters will still be found snoozing well after the sun comes up on the first morning. Whether by accident, or on purpose, sleeping in obviously means you’re not in the game. While some hunters avoid morning hunts in the early season to avoid spooking deer, others capitalize on a perfectly placed morning tree stand set. Yes, accessing morning stands in the early season can be tough when hunting in and around fields. But if you’ll take a closer look at the properties you hunt, you just might find an alternate approach that allows you to get in undetected, even in the morning.

sleeping in phone alarms

And if you slept in simply because you couldn’t resist the urge to slap the snooze button, you’ve committed what is likely the greatest sin in all of deer hunting. Don’t be that person! You can sleep at mid-day. Don’t miss a sunrise. Get up, get out, and watch what happens as the day begins. You won’t regret it. 

2. Making a Lousy Approach

Some hunters blow the opportunity at a buck long before they ever climb into the stand. Making a lousy approach to your tree stand can be a deal breaker right from the start. Have you considered the access you use on the way to your stand? Is it helping or hurting your opportunity for success? Don’t get lazy here. The shortest route to your stand may not be the best approach. Look for a creek access that will minimize your noise, scent, and visibility from any deer hanging out close by. \

Is your gear locked down and quiet on the approach? Deer will often tolerate natural sounds you make, but rarely will they put up with the clangin’ and bangin’ of a treestand, climbing sticks, or other obnoxious noises coming from your backpack. Commit to making the stealthiest approach possible every time you step into the woods. 

3. Missing Gear 

Day 1 of the season often finds us working out the kinks and knocking the rust off our gear. No matter how hard we try, we tend to find something missing from our kit on opening day. Bow hangers, haul line, Thermacell, rangefinder, binos, face mask, or heaven forbid, our bow release. Don’t let it happen to you. 

Take the time in the days prior to the opener to go through your pack, check the gear list, and make sure you are adequately prepared on opening day. I like to keep a gear list in the notes on my phone as an annual prep list to ensure I have everything I need. I add to, or remove, as needed, but this is the standard gear list that keeps me ready for opening day. 

4. Playing on Your Phone

Unless we’re incredibly disciplined, this one will get the best of us. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked up from scrolling through social media on my phone to see a buck walking past my stand. He was in bow range, but I had my face buried in my phone. My attention span is about as short as they get, so my phone certainly helps pass the time when I’m logging long hours on the stand. But it bites me every season. 

Sure, some of us actually conduct legitimate work on our phones while in the tree stand. It’s how we can justify the time away from the desk. Just know, it will cost you shot opportunities. If it hasn’t yet, get ready. It’s coming. And when it does, you’ll be kicking yourself all the way back to the truck.  The answer? Learn to spend more time looking up, enjoying the good stuff God’s placed all around you this season. 

playing on your phone while hunting

5. Failing to Sit Still 

The only thing more sinful than blowing a shot opportunity because you had your face buried in your phone, is failing to sit still. Hunters that can’t sit still in the tree stand will often fail. It’s the oldest scare tactic in the book when it comes to hunting white-tailed deer. 

Your back and butt will typically be the first to grow weary. Then comes the tingling in your legs and feet as the circulation slows and your lower units grow numb. We twist, turn, stand, and stretch in hopes of relief. It’s a classic example of the movement that’ll spook deer most every time. Learn to minimize your movement while on stand. And before you make a major move, scan the area to ensure there are no deer in the distance watching for danger. 

6. Rushing the Shot

You can practice all summer long and still not be able to handle the pressure that comes with executing the shot on a live animal. When you come to full draw on an animal, you’ll likely find your body somewhere between uncontrollable shaking and passing out. 

Again, you can practice on the range all you want, but when it comes down to the moment of truth on a live target, you have to dig down deep and find the ability to slow down and avoid rushing the shot. Talk yourself through it. Remind yourself of it – slow down, don’t rush the shot.

Your mind will be screaming to send it, regardless of where your sights may be. Fight through it. Bury your sight where it needs to be and don’t turn it loose until you’re there. Slow down, and make it happen.

rushing the shot bowhunting

7. Leaving the Woods Too Early

Despite all the articles and videos over the last several decades that have preached against leaving the woods too early, most hunters still make this mistake. We get hungry, bored, tired, lonely, and anxious to do something else when the deer activity isn’t happening around our stand. It’s incredibly easy to talk yourself out of grinding it out on stand. An easy excuse is all we need to climb down and head back to the truck.
The hours pass without a deer encounter. What good will another few hours make? The truth is, much of the big buck activity we’re waiting for happens once we walk out of the woods. Big bucks will move at mid-day – hours after we’ve left the woods to grab a chicken biscuit. Don’t make this mistake. Ride it out to see what you’ve been missing when you leave too early.
Deer season is finally here! Make the most of it by avoiding the sins mentioned above. When you do, you’ll notch more tags and load more meat in the freezer.  

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