How To Ruin a Hunt
Readers share worst mistakes they've made in the field
The wrong move can make a deer vamoose. (Steve Bowman photo)
We asked readers on Facebook “What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while hunting?”
That question was based on “Avoiding Catastrophic Mistakes,” a story on guide George Mayfield, who details why he did things a specific way on a turkey hunt. His philosophy was to not change the dynamic of the birds with hunting miscues that would alter their activity. Basically not get busted by the birds to stay in the game.
Our viewers reported a variety of things they’ve done wrong, starting with forgetting to set the alarm to even get in the game. Others have gotten out but never got in the game. They left home without it, it being ammunition.
One bow hunter reported driving two hours before realizing his quiver was still at home. Another realized after a considerable hike to his stand that his arrows would do him no good in the truck.
However, Darin Freeman tops the bow hunting mishaps. “Dropped my quiver of arrows 20 feet out of my stand while there was 5 deer in front of me. So I watched them feed for an hour till dark.”
If deer could laugh.
Christopher Henman told us he forgot to chamber a shell once he got positioned in his tree stand. “Didn't find out till two hours later when I had a shot on a buck and all that happened was a loud ‘click’! Never seen a deer run away so fast! Lol.”
Speaking of ammo miscues, Bob Taylor said he had .20-gauge buckshot instead of slugs in his deer gun.
Others reported their noises busted hunts, from stepping on a crackly leaf to bodily functions, like sneezing and flatulence. The latter came up, or out, several times. Try Beano.
Along those lines, Eric Stacy’s poor judgment left him running. “Drinking from a water bottle that was opened last season and left in my climber pocket. Needless to say, couldn't get out of the tree fast enough. That hunt was ruined. Never drink old water. Bacteria can build up in just days.”
A sudden scatological urge has ruined, or at least put on hold, other hunts, and Paul Merritt tells of the nightmare of actually falling back in it. “Luckily I had a roll of paper towels and a creek nearby. I don’t recommend coffee and chocolate donuts early in the morning ‘cause it can make you jump 15 feet right out of your stand.”
Falling in it is bad, but fallin asleep is another fail. Several reported the need for NoDoz, and Isaish Dziadaszek said it cost him “a monster buck” when he was 15.
Joel Blankenship learned the hard way not to fall asleep in a tree stand, especially when you’re not wearing a safety harness: “Twenty foot down, and it was an hour before I could stand and support myself to get to vehicle. Never again!”
The Boy Scouts should have clued Hank Peterson to avoid his faux pas of not being prepared. His foul up -- “Sitting down in my climbing treestand at daybreak when I should have been standing with my bow in my hand!!!!!!! A 150-inch buck snuck up on me and I missed out on my chance!!!! And I've been hunting for over 30 years!!!”
Distractions are a bear, and a little one cost Chuck Hughes big. A rabbit caught his attention, and he even nocked a field point only to “discover that the biggest buck that I have ever had a shot at was standing broadside like a statue in my shooting lane.”
Ouch. Focus, Chuck, focus. That also failed Kane Ferguson this year. The 14-year turkey hunter got a bad case of gobbler fever and did something he’d never done, something probably difficult to admit. “Got way to anxious and pulled the trigger at 100 yards.”
Needless to say, the birds didn’t stick around. Shooting too soon is an issue, as is sitting wrong. Learning how to sit comfortably is an early lesson greenhorns receive.
“I used my gun to help adjust myself while sitting on the ground and in doing so I racked the shotgun and scared off a big turkey,” Jason Morrow lamented.
Choosing a good locale where you’re going to sit might have aided Scott Cope. He admitted he sat “on the opposite side of a tree from an ant hill (red ants). Stripped naked in the woods.”
A rookie mistake comes from Michael Nielsen, whose arms probably turned to mush after “holding up my shotgun without a gun rest for four hours while thunder chicken hunting ... first time out and no one told me.”
Good advice. Another reported miscue was hunting alone and not taking a phone in case of an emergency.
Not naming names, but one man reported his biggest blunder ever, I mean ever, was taking his wife. (Psst. Gene Edict, if she reads this, you are in trouble.)
The ladies also had issues with their husbands. Pamela J. Collins said that listening to her husband was her worst mistake. He "moved while turkey hunting with me and I missed the chance at the biggest turkey of my life.”
Some women hunters don’t need help messing up, like Carrie Mann Dixon. “Moving to another stand during the rut after a slow morning, only to see a beautiful 10-point slowly coming my way after making about 15 steps and watching him bolt like lightning had struck him!”
Jeannie Rylant said nature called and she went without checking the area for any hunter orange. “Once I was done and saw that orange hat … wow, I bet he enjoyed that show … so embarrassing.”
Finally, we leave with a fail that probably shows how conscientious a hunter James Hilliker is. He had shot a nice 8-point with his bow but lost the blood trail.
“Never found him. And I was just sick over it. I had never lost a deer before that day.”
Hilliker had extenuating circumstances as a good rain hurt his ability to locate the trail, but these other foul-ups should go in your files so they don't happen to you.