Mistakes... To limit this to 4 was hard... In reality it was more like 30!
But... you either win or learn and in this case every mistake I made was a golden opportunity to learn.
Like some guys, I didn't grow up with hunting (or archery for that matter) I took it up in my late 20's.
Coming from a competitive fishing background and loving the outdoors and acquiring new skills, bowhunting really hit me as a skill I knew I'd love.
Once I made the decision it was a deep dive into the discipline and time in the field, spending countless hours on the road to get to my hunting location then spending more countless hours hunting (or in my case, scaring deer!)
So that said... Here are the 4 Key Mistakes I made in my first year of Bowhunting.
1- Too much walking
"Walk a little, see a lot. Walk a lot, see little"
And to this, the old saying rings true.
Lets face it... when you start hunting you're keen to see animals, you want to keep looking over the next hill just to see if they're there (or even if they even exist!) More often than not they've already picked your noise up 200-300 yards before you'll ever see them.
Once I slowed my pace (or even stopped for a while) thats when I started seeing deer.
Becoming a part of the bush is the key to hunting and for the beginner you're better finding a good spot with plenty of visible feeding areas and waiting... then commence your stalk!
2- Be Patient, Deer aren't on a deadline.
Deer (or any game animal for that matter) aren't on a schedule. They don't need to be anywhere specific at a certain time. They don't have a boss that will fire them if they're late!
Even now I still find it takes me one 3 hour hunt to slow down into the pace of the bush.
Especially if I've rushed to leave work, drive 4 hours to my location, set up and shoot my bow in, get my gear sorted then be up in the bush to get a few hours hunting before dark...
Rushing a stalk = GAME OVER
So what I suggest and what I do is... Before that first hunt, get out of your car, sit there, close your eyes and breath calmly 100 times.
Calm your mind, set your intention, visualise your plan and then go and hunt... This is a AWESOME way to slow you down and bring you presence in the moment to ensure you're focused 100% on whats in front of you.
3- Don't Underestimate how fast conditions can change.
Early onset hypothermia... Thats how I learned this one.
On one of my first hunts I got caught...Badly
It was a fine winters day, 15 degrees, sunny and no wind. I had on a pair of pants and a Merino shirt... Within 90mins it was -12 Degrees with 40kmph winds and snow flurries.
I was hunting well and had started layering up but the key mistake I made was that I didn't have the right layers and was 2km away from my car.
Now 2km doesn't sound like far but in those conditions including wind chill I was seriously spiralling into hypothermia fast...
By the time I was within 1km of my car I couldn't feel from my elbows down, my feet were completely numb and I was struggling to keep any pace let alone walk in a straight line.
When I finally got to my car I couldn't drive for 45 mins due to no feeling in my hands and massive coughing convulsions. So I sat there with the heater on until I was calm enough to be able to drive..
Basically you need to pack for 4 seasons (including wet weather gear) and make sure your gear is quality.
4- Always... ALWAYS take your GPS (with full battery)
This is VITAL... 100% I'd be dead if I hadn't done this on my very first solo hunt.
Long story short, the first hunt I ever went on, the property owner took me to the top of a ridgeline and drops me off as it starts snowing...
He said to me "Have you ever been in the snow before?" To which I said "no, not really"
He replied "You've got the house marked on the GPS don't you?" Which I replied "Yes"
Lucky I had because within 30mins I couldn't see 5-10 meters in front of me... Complete WHITEOUT.
Without my GPS I would have been lost out there, with no phone reception in the freezing cold.
That said... Here are some of the things I did right...
- I Paid for quality archery coaching from the start
- I Observed and hunted with an experienced hunter
- I Bought good Clothing/Camo - SitkaGear.com
- I Shot my bow daily (50-100 arrows a day minimum)
All in all, hunting your first year will be a big learning curve.
You'll blow stalks, miss shots, misjudge distances and get caught out but its all apart go the experience.
Long story short, just get out there, be disciplined and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible!