So - you've scouted long and hard and carefully, selected a hunting spot that gives you confidence, you've labored hard to haul your stand and/or gear several hundred yards, get all set up and then... what?
What happens next can often make or break your hunt, or at least your state of mind. And if your mind's not right, you might as well be back in bed or playing weekend warrior at home instead of hunting.
Here are some of the things that have ruined or disrupted my hunting in the past. At the bottom of the page is a comment box where you can share your pet peeves, too.
Loud voices are usually something a deer don't tolerate. I remember well a time when I was perched in a tree stand on a WMA, watching a group of about five whitetail does. Some were feeding, others were bedded down.
Out on the main road, two or three hundred yards away, someone parked a car. The deer ignored the engine noise until the car pulled off the road. Then there were some loud door slams, and the deer perked up at that. They weren't very worried, but they all looked in that direction. Some kept feeding.
Then, loud voices drifted through the woods from the vehicle, and all of the deer walked quickly away in the opposite direction. The loud talkers had alerted every deer in the area, ruining my hunt.
I remember it all too well. I was a teen in a tree stand, and had even placed some homemade signs on nearby trails, hoping to keep people away. Then someone came slew-footing down the trail.
I whistled a few times, hoping to get his attention, so he'd know he was stomping right through my hunting area. He didn't even pause. Finally, we exchanged words. Bottom line, he didn't care about anyone but himself, and he'd even tossed my signs off into the brush. What a jerk.
That was just the first time I had to deal with a selfish jerk who called himself a hunter. There was also the guy who set up his climber right next to me (he carried his rifle into the woods in a hard case, of all things), and way too many more over the years.
When I'm not seeing deer, I admit I can get a bit green when others are getting all the chances, but there are limits to my envy. Dad taught by example, and was always happy when someone in our group got a deer. But not everyone thinks that way.
One season, a then-friend joined Dad and I on a week-long hunt. I bagged a nice four-point on opening morning, then got a spike on Wednesday morning. After that, my "buddy" was beside himself with jealousy, and it certainly tainted the hunt. Later that season, something else came up and we never hunted together again.
Squirrels have a way of barking at just the wrong time, letting every critter within hearing know that something's wrong.
One time, I was slipping through the woods with my Ruger 44 carbine, and had been hearing something moving in the thick brush nearby. It sure sounded like a deer, and I wanted to get a look, so I carefully stalked along the trail, hoping to catch a glimpse through the scrub or maybe catch it crossing the trail.
Then a squirrel started barking as if someone had stolen all his acorns. The mystery critter instantly ran off in a melee of crashing brush and hoofbeats. Argh!
Shortly thereafter, the squirrel was missing his head and we had a little bit more meat for supper. He won't ruin anyone else's hunt.
Unfortunately, you can't always control who hunts in your area. On one hunt, a guy returned to camp with a doe, glowing with triumph. He had shot at a standing doe, which had run off into some brush. Then another doe posed for him, which he shot and brought back to camp.
Turns out, he never even looked for the first deer - didn't even walk over to look for blood or hair.
Then there are the folks who won't even look for birds they've shot which fall into thickets. What a waste.
Folks who are unwilling to follow up every shot should never go hunting. Period.
There's not much that can ruin a hunt faster than a thief. Dad and some friends of ours have both had ladder stands stolen from the woods, and once upon a time some jackass stole my old reliable climbing stand, from which I'd taken a number of deer.
Talk about a terrible feeling... walking up to the tree I'd climbed that morning, where I'd left my climber locked to the tree with a cable and padlock, and finding it gone was one of the worst feelings I've ever had while hunting.
Someday, thieves like that will get what's coming to them. I sometimes wish I could be there to help dish it out.
A careless guy with a gun is someone you don't need to be around, and who shouldn't be allowed in the woods.
From the guy who allowed the muzzle of his shoulder-slung rifle to point at a young boy's head, to folks that shoot into moving bushes to see what might fall out, to folks who point their shotguns at others on the skeet range and on the dove field, I've seen way too much of it.
Then there was the ex-cop so-called turkey hunter who stopped to BS with some friends. He rested the butt of his shotgun on the toe of his boot, folded his hands over the muzzle, and propped his chin on his hands. Lord, have mercy!