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Outdoors - There's more to hunting than luck

October 24, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

Deer season is in full swing for the entire Tri-State area.

In West Virginia, this means the bow season, while in Maryland and Virginia, the early muzzleloader season offers hunters a great chance to bag a big buck before the general rifle season.

Of course, the highlight is the upcoming general firearms season in November.

The huge growth in deer populations has changed the landscape for deer hunters. Many hunters now routinely take multiple deer each fall. In fact, there are a few hunters who consistently take more than one mature buck each fall.

Luck has little to do with their consistent success. As the old saying goes, luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

As you participate in the various deer seasons this fall, there are two distinct areas that consistently "lucky" hunters mention when asked about their approach - scouting and equipment preparation.

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The following are some suggestions:

Scouting - Veteran hunters usually point to this as the key to a successful deer season. This applies to every hunting area, but is especially important if you hunt what I call the big woods areas: The huge areas of public land in the large state hunting areas and national forests. In these areas, the deer will move for miles to find preferred food sources, or to escape hunting pressure. Scouting is less important when you hunt small farms or wood lots where the deer stay in relatively small areas and change very little from season to season.

In the big woods, the first key factor is the available food sources. This fall, reports indicate that the mast crops, such as acorns and beechnuts, vary a great deal from area to area. This means it's time to do some hiking to find areas with good mast production.

Identifying the food sources is only one part of the scouting. Other areas to look for include bedding areas and the travel lanes the deer will use when moving from spot to spot. On public lands, you also need to try to predict the areas the deer will move to when the guns start cracking on opening day.

Equipment preparation - The consistently "lucky" hunters pay attention to details. They are particularly picky about their equipment and make sure they are fully prepared when the season opens.

This means buying good equipment and making sure it is ready before opening day. The obvious thing is your rifle or bow. But this also applies to scopes or sights and making sure your gun or bow is properly checked for sight-in or zero.

Clothing is another very important factor - some days as important as your gun or bow. During a typical deer season the weather can range from warm to very cold. You can't stay in a tree stand all day if you are cold and miserable, so you need to choose clothes that will help you remain comfortable in all weather conditions.

The modern deer hunter has many new options in regard to clothing materials and features, such as scent-control clothing that are a far cry from the old days of wool and flannel.

The good news for deer hunters is that deer populations are high everywhere and your chances of filling a tag or tags are as good as they have ever been. You can help improve your odds even more by concentrating on scouting, having the right equipment and keeping it in tip-top condition.




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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