Last fall I started writing about points to make us all better deer hunters. I had the most comments on persistence. Many of you agreed that it was the most important thing to have and also agreed that it was the hardest thing to do. This month I'm going to talk about the one thing that will help you have more persistence and that is, practice. There are lots of thing to practice, to help in becoming a better hunter as well as making persistence a lot easier to have. Many hunters just grab there gun and head into the woods on opening day in hopes of shooting that monster buck, without any thought given to what it might take other than luck. If you rely on pure luck when you after the old moss horns, you'll never be a regular at the tagging station.
There are things you can practice year round to make you a better hunter when you step into the woods and not have to rely on just luck. Practice walking in the woods to stay in shape. Most hunters think that if they walk a few miles a day down the road, that they are getting in shape. Walk in the woods. By walking in the woods you are going to have to go up and down the ridges as well as over blow downs. By doing this you will learn how to be quiet. There are lots of things in the woods that make noise. Learn what they are by trial and error. Try sneaking up on different animals when you're out there. Use the wind and the cover. If you practice walking ahead of time it will become second nature, when you take to the deer woods this fall.
If there is one thing I've learned in all my years of guiding is that there are very few hunters that are ready to make a shot count when the time comes. The reason is that most of them practice their shooting from a bench rest. This means absolutely nothing when it comes to shooting a buck in the woods. Once you know that your gun is sighted in, get off the rest and practice. When you're hunting in the woods, odds are you are not going to get a standing shot at a buck all the time. If he's not running he may be walking or trotting. If you practice, you can consistently make these shots. I've talk before about rolling a tire with a cardboard target in the center, down a hill and shooting at it. Another good way to practice is to tie a milk jug, with some sand in it for weight, on a string and swing it from a tree limb. Always make sure you have a good back stop when doing either of these things.
The worst habit most hunters have when shooting is that they take too long to pull the trigger. I've watched hunters put up their gun to shoot, and wait so long that, the barrel starts to wander all over the place. Once this happens, they usually miss. You have to pull the trigger as soon as your bead or crosshair touches the point you want to hit. Practice this by putting you gun up and firing a quick shot, then bring your gun down and do it again. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER SLOWLY! That technique is for target or long range shooting and does not apply to hunting in the woods. Snap the trigger when it's on target. You'll be amazed at how well you can shoot offhand by doing this.
Another thing to practice and this is a good time to do it is, aging tracks. Aging tracks is probably the hardest thing for most hunters, but it boils down to experience or practice. Throughout the winter we have different temperatures and snow conditions, making it a perfect time to practice aging tracks. They do not have to be deer tracks. They can be yours, your dogs or anything. The important thing is that you know when the track is made and keep an eye on what happens to it over time. Take note of the temperature and type of snow. Write it down if you need too, as your practicing. If you do this enough, you will start to see a pattern in the way tracks change. With all this practice, when you hit the snowy woods next fall, you won't have to rely entirely on lady luck, to put your tag on that big buck you've been dreaming all year about. Practice won't make you perfect, but it will make you better.