How predator hunting has made me a better deer hunter.
I’ve learned a lot from predators over the years. They make a living killing so, naturally, they’re pretty good at it.
If you hunt predators long enough, you become a pretty good predator yourself. You’re also bound to pick up a few techniques from them along the way.
There’s no question the lessons I learned while predator hunting have made me a more successful deer hunter.
For example, I am funny about camouflage. I usually deck out head to toe with gloves, headnet and a good camo pattern like Realtree Max 1. I now even wear dark colored socks.
You might think that sounds over the top, but I lost a coyote once because of the white cotton socks I used to wear.
I was tucked under a tree using a mouth call to emulate a rabbit in distress when a coyote popped up about a hundred yards away. I slowly turned to shoulder my rifle, but the coyote locked up, staring directly at me. He looked a few seconds and bolted before I could get off a shot.
It took me a little while to figure out that, when I sat down, my camo pants had slid up over my boots, making my two white socks glaringly visible. When I moved, the coyote spotted the white socks and then spotted me turning my rifle in his direction. Now when I hunt coyotes or whitetails, I always wear tall boots or dark socks. Thanks, Mr. Coyote.
Something else I learned from sharp-eyed coyotes is how quickly they spot a glare or the flash off a rifle scope, binoculars or a shiny gun stock.
Thanks to learning the hard way by hunting predators, I now use guns and bows with a dull finish. I have even used spray paint or camouflage tape to hide shiny finishes and bright spots on my deer hunting equipment.
I am also very aware of the sun’s location. Sometimes you just can’t get around glassing into the sun. When necessary, I will shade the front of my binoculars with my hand to keep from sending a glare that a sharp predator or deer could spot.
For any of you who have tried to draw your bow on a coyote, whether from the ground or a treestand, you will probably agree they are tougher to draw on than a cagey old whitetail.
Their eyes are so sharp, you have to move extremely slowly. Even then, it’s tough to get a shot unless their eyes are blocked by a tree or brush.
When hunting whitetails, I use a bow poundage I can comfortably draw slowly. I also always try to take advantage of trees or brush so I can draw when the deer’s vision is blocked.
I work on quieting down all my gear, too. A squeaky bow or a loose arrow in your quiver will give you up and ruin a shot opportunity. I also try to wear quiet clothes. Some materials make a loud swishing noise when rubbed together or when a limb brushes it.
Rain gear can be especially noisy, so if I’m hunting in nasty weather, I put a quiet, thin layer of clothing over my rain gear. Sure, my outer layer gets wet, but any noise from my rain gear is muffled by the covering layer.
When it comes to wind and scent, you can learn a lot from predators. Having grown up trapping, it always amazed me how one drop of scent could draw a coyote to a set.
I was equally blown away at how just a little human scent from your hands in a heavily trapped area would cause a coyote to veer far out of his way to avoid it.
Deer are equally sensitive to attractants and human scent. I have harvested some deer I know I wouldn’t have taken if it wasn’t for products like Muzzy Bowhunters Set-Up. I have also had deer avoid me just by winding the trail where I had walked in to my stand.
Just like predator hunting, I am always aware of what the wind is doing and how I walk in to my set or stand.
A coyote or fox usually circles downwind as it’s coming in, and whitetails coming to a doe bleat, grunt, rattling antlers or decoy often circle downwind, too.
When predator hunting, I set up anticipating this habit, and it has paid off for me. For the same reasons, I now set up for deer on the downwind side of my decoy or when using calls.
Calling predators is often a game of patience. Oftentimes you go to your best spot and nothing shows up. Other times, a coyote, fox or cat runs in and makes you remember what it is you love about hunting predators.
I try to apply this same patience to deer hunting. Some days, they just don’t move a lot; other days, it seems there are deer everywhere.
By being patient, having multiple locations to hunt and by spending as much time afield as I can, I enjoy enough great days to offset the slow ones.
Having multiple locations and using different stands often keeps you from blowing out one area. It also keeps you sharper mentally.
When predator hunting, you have to expect that animal to appear any second. When he does, if you’re not ready, you’ll never get a shot.
By approaching my whitetail hunts with the same attitude, I usually make the most of shot opportunities.
If you’re a hardcore deer hunter and have never hunted predators, you might not have noticed how many coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons or other predators you see during bad weather. Even if you don’t see them, you can find their tracks.
That’s because it’s much easier to sneak up on prey in nasty weather. Wind makes everything move. From grass and small bushes to large trees, everywhere a whitetail looks, he sees movement.
Even subtle movement can give you away on a calm day, but you can get away with a lot more when it’s windy.
The other advantage of wind and rain is the added noise that masks any sound a predator makes.
I guide mountain lion hunters in the winter in Colorado and have found that lions and bobcats are almost always out hunting when the weather is bad.
I, too, take advantage of poor weather conditions. I sometimes stalk slowly through the woods, trying to sneak within bow range of a buck. Other times, I hop into a treestand or ground blind, knowing I can draw without being seen or heard if a deer approaches.
During one of his lessons, blind Kung Fu master Po asked his student if he could hear his heartbeat and the grasshopper at his feet. Student Kwai Chang Caine said, “Old man, how is it that you hear these things?”
Master Po responded, “Young man, how is it that you do not?”
When it comes to the true art of hunting, we’re like a young student.
There are many things you can learn from predators that can be applied to your own hunting, if you watch, listen and learn. Read Recent Articles:
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• CSI Whitetail: High tech forensic science comes to the deer woods. This article was published in the Winter 2011 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.