By Louis Roberts
Something my father instilled in me as a young hunter is to stay alert from the time I leave the truck until the moment I unload my rifle and get back in the truck to go home.
He taught me to adopt the mentality of staying alert, remaining optimistic, and to never give up. And when it comes to whitetails, expect the unexpected.
As many times as my father warned me not to let my guard down, I still had to learn the hard way that deer don't exist only in areas near my stands. They can be anywhere. Until I heeded my dad's advice, I saw a lot of white flags waving goodbye.
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten skunked from the stand, gotten down, began stalking, got in a hurry and gave up, only to jump deer on the way out. Sometimes that happened right next to where we'd parked the truck!
On uneventful hunts, it's understandably hard for us to not hurry when it's time to go. Traveling to and from our stands is often the time we mess up by not remaining in hunting mode until the last possible moment.
This seems especially true in public access areas where other hunters tend to keep deer moving throughout the day. You never know when or where they'll spook a buck past you.
One of the very best bucks on my wall came 20 minutes after a group of rather loud hunters walked past my stand. I thought my hunt was over and was about to mentally cash it in. But my father's words came back to me. I stuck it out and nailed that buck, even after I thought the hunt was ruined.
Think about this: how many times have you heard turkey hunters talk about assuming no gobbler was coming, so they got up to leave and spooked a turkey that was on its way in? If they wouldn't have given up or let their guard down, they'd have gotten a shot at that bird. The same applies to deer hunting.