Opening day success is higher than any other day during the deer season. That’s because opening day sees more hunters in the woods than any other day. It’s also because each deer that’s killed represents one fewer deer in the woods on every day that follows. You can’t kill a deer on Day Two that was killed on Day One.
In a lifetime of firearm seasons I’ve probably shot 70% of my bucks on opening day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could increase our odds of taking a deer after opening day? But we can’t restock deer that were harvested on opening day, and we can’t keep hunters in the woods who tag out or tire out as the season progresses.
While all that’s true, we do certain things on opening day that contribute to our success, and if we do them after opening day they will make success more likely. Regardless of how many hunters and how many deer are in the woods, success comes from how we prepare, how we hunt, and the mental attitude we bring to the game. So here are three suggestions that apply to opening day, and every day after.
1. Wear clean clothing.
Prior to opening morning successful hunters have their gear ready, including clean hunting clothes ready to go. I’ve heard hunters say, “I don’t wash my hunting clothes during the season because I want them to absorb the smells of the woods to camouflage my human scent.”
News flash! The smells of the woods are overpowered by the smell of you. Even if your perspiration isn’t condensing into liquid, your pores produce waste that permeates your clothing from the inside. Not only that, you’re constantly shedding skin cells that embed themselves in your clothing. So get a good scent-free detergent, crank up the washing machine, and wash all that away. If you want, you can pack your clean clothing in a bin with dirt and leaves, or put it on and roll around on the ground, but start every day with clothing that’s free of human scent.
2. Hunt hard.
Most hunters get to their stands before daylight on opening day. They figure being in place early will increase their odds of catching deer moving. The most successful hunters not only start early, they also hunt right up until quitting time on opening day. They figure the more time they spend in the woods, the more likely they’ll see a shooter buck. And they’re right.
It also makes great sense after opening day to start early and stay to the end. With fewer hunters in the woods, deer will likely be a little more relaxed than they were when the shooting started. Expect them to move during early, late, and gloomy midday hours when cloud cover is heavy. Be there, and be successful.
3. Be optimistic.
It’s impossible to tell what role optimism plays in deer hunting. Certainly a positive attitude can’t influence deer movement, and you can’t get a buck to come your way by the force of your will. That’s why some people think optimism is overrated. Not so.
Failure to kill a buck on opening day is no reason to let optimism diminish. Every day I hunt, I believe I’ll score that day, and that influences how I hunt. Optimism causes me to take a few extra steps so I can peek down on the bench below, rather than turn my back and go the other way. Optimism makes me believe snapping a twig matters, and helps me redouble my efforts to stay quiet and go slow. Optimism doesn’t let me leave when I get tired, motivates me to give one more idea a try, and keeps me in the woods right up to quitting time.
You’ve been thinking all year about opening day. Keep thinking. Think like tomorrow is another opening day.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting , he’s thinking about hunting ,
talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.