Quality over Quantity: Can you Deer Hunt too Much?
Is there ever a convenient time to move to a new home? The short answer is no, but there are certainly times that are less convenient than others, and just before the start of hunting season would be one of those times if you asked most hunters. Sometimes we can’t avoid life changes disrupting our favorite outdoor pursuit, and that’s exactly the situation I found myself in this year.
It was late September when we closed on our new home in Pennsylvania, and all of my hunting gear was still packed in numerous boxes when opening day arrived in Ohio, the state we just left. While my tree stands and trail cameras were hanging in the Buckeye State, I was helping my wife unpack our belongings, and at the same time chasing an energetic and curious toddler around the house. The other state that I have whitetail tags for is Delaware, so at least I was almost evenly spaced between the two. Still, I knew that I wouldn’t be getting out until at least late October, which is a foreign concept to me.
Despite my little predicament, I wasn’t discouraged thanks to something I’ve been slowly learning as I’ve grown older, and after racking up thousands of hours pursuing deer. I’ve learned that quality hunting trumps quantity hunting. It wasn’t all that long ago that I would be in the woods every opportunity that my schedule allowed. It didn’t matter if it was 80 degrees with clear skies and sun, or 40 degrees with rain and 30 mile-per-hour winds. I had a spot for every possible wind direction, and nothing was going to stop me from being out there. By my calculations, getting the deer I was after would be determined by how much time I put in, as opposed to putting in the right time. Although I would eventually will myself to success most years, I’m not sure I appreciated the journey.
Deer hunters are a strange breed. We wait all year for just a few weeks of opportunity in most cases, and if we calculated the time and money we put into preparation in the hopes of finding that narrow few seconds of magic, we’d be embarrassed to tell a sane person. When you consider the idea of cutting back on the time you’re hunting when the season is in, you’d hesitate to tell another hunter for fear of name calling and ridicule. I’m not ashamed to admit, though, that that is exactly the approach I have taken in recent years, and it has vastly improved my enjoyment of the sport.
When I was slugging it out almost every day during the season, hunting almost became a chore. I would wear myself down physically and mentally, and as the days went on without reaching my goal, the pressure mounted. Ironically, it was another life change that caused me to take a step back and evaluate how I was approaching deer hunting, and that was the birth of my son almost two years ago. Automatically, my time afield was limited, and that’s when I learned what I had been missing.
I was always too focused on the destination and not the journey, but having limited time caused me to notice things that I didn’t before. The first thing I realized was how lucky I was to have the opportunity to hunt deer. A few minutes before sitting down to write this I was talking with Matt Ross at QDMA who was in the process of hiring a baby sitter so he could do some hunting. “I’m actually paying someone so that I can hunt,” he joked at the end of the call. I’m sure he’s not alone. Looking back, who was I to fret about not going every chance I had?
Sadly, many others have no time or place to go, or may have physical limitations that hold them back. I now relish every detail of the hunt from the moment I leave the house until I return to my truck. There’s nothing more beautiful than the autumn woods in my opinion, and the familiar smell of decaying leaves mixed with a hint of musky, rutting bucks. Finally, I learned that my level of success didn’t drop in the least. There is definitely a wrong time to hunt deer, particularly the older and wiser ones with antlers, so picking only the best times to go tends to pay off.
When I finally made it to the woods this past week in Delaware, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity. I only hunted a few days and it didn’t result in any filled tags, but just being around deer, examining sign, and strategizing for the next hunt was intoxicating. I soaked up every second while I was there, and have since returned home and spent some time pouring over my notes and aerial photos as I develop a game plan that hopefully leads me to the desired outcome. Regardless of if my plan comes together or not, it’s going to be a successful hunt because I will enjoy every moment, and appreciate the privilege that deer hunting is.
I encourage you to take a step back and think about the time you spend deer hunting, and consider whether or not you’re getting the most out of the experience. While I’ll always wish that I had more time to go, having to be more strategic about my outings has reminded me of all of the reasons I fell in love with deer and hunting in the first place. Call me an old-timer, but I’ll take quality over quantity at this stage of my hunting career.