Whitetail: The September Lull
September 8, 2022: Fifteen days and a wake-up stand between us and Ohio’s whitetail opener. This is one of those ”so close, yet, so far” scenarios. One of those times of the year where I am transported back to my 10-year-old self, begging for these days to go by faster.
As each hour ticks closer, the desire grows inside me to do more in the whitetail woods. Shift cameras, fine-tune stands, find more fresh intel, find more shooters, cut more lanes… I want to do all of it--all but the one thing I should be doing: NOTHING.
My stands are meticulously tuned, cameras have good battery levels, feed sites are fresh, hit list is substantial—all that remains is shooting my bow and practicing my patience.
Every year for the last few years I have chosen one pillar of being a successful hunter to focus on. I can remember my first year I started this path of improvement. That year I focused on improving my shot selection and not rushing when the big moment presented itself. As a result, I learned to find the peace in the moments leading up to releasing my arrow, rather than the chaos.
Surprisingly, in just one fall, I was able to reprogram my brain to hold in all those emotions until after the shot, then I come completely unglued!
Last summer, while listening to a podcast on Southern Ground Hunting, I found the second pillar I wished to work on: Consistency. Bobby Worthington, who is an absolute LEGEND and GENIUS, talked about many things in the short, two-part, four hour podcast. His take on consistency was spot on, for me.
Worthington talked about setting a goal for each hunt and sticking to it. He said that on his hunts, he will set a specific time he was going to hunt until. He didn't do this because he needed to know when his hunt would be over, but because it gave him that mindset that he would NOT be leaving early, not even a minute!
So, in the fall of 2021, that's what I did. As a result, I learned something much deeper than I expected. It wasn't those extra minutes I stayed on my morning sits that made me successful. It was what that mentality did to my overall consistency. I learned to be disciplined and to accept that my opportunity may not come in one sit, five sits, twenty sits, or at all, but no matter what, if I was committed to hunting that day, I would be there with my best effort.
In the fall of 2021, I hunted my ass off. Many long sits, many different strategies and just as many "failures".
When I harvested my 2021 Ohio buck, I was very surprised to say the least. I was hunting a farm that I am very familiar with, but did not have much in the way of shooters on camera. This farm is about 85% big timber in Southern Ohio. My hunt strategy was going to be based solely on wind and terrain, in a stand I had not hunted for over a decade.
It was a rainy late October morning. I went into the hunt prepared to get wet and also prepared to get skunked. But still, I committed to hunting, so dammit I was going to make the most of it.
In keeping with my commitment to giving my all to every hunt, I took a much more difficult route to my stand that morning. This entry, while much longer, created much less opportunity for deer to detect my presence.
Did it make a difference? I'll never know for sure, but what I do know is the end result of my commitment to hunting that morning.
At about 7:00 am, a cruising buck surprised the heck out of me. I had just done a light grunting sequence, which in my opinion, sounded like crap. So much so that when this buck came in, my grunt call was in my lap in 5 pieces. All of those pieces went everywhere as I stood and grabbed my bow. The buck turned broadside at 35 yards and I sent an arrow through a very tight window, into his heart. The rest is history.
So what is the point of all of this rambling? Well to really hammer home the point of this blabbering, I want to talk about patience. Patience is my pillar of focus for this 2022 whitetail season.
In year's past, I will admit, patience has not been my strong suit. I can think of many occasions where I got caught up in the flurry of the days leading up to season and was in the woods moving and shifting things around to try to have everything perfect for opening day. In doing so, I fully believe that I burned out some of my best spots before season even opened. This summer, I committed to doing as much preparation as I could prior to September, and when September 1 rolled around, that was it.
What would I actually gain by shifting cameras right now to try to find my #1 and #2 target bucks, who have been M.I.A. for 10 days? The potential reward in getting in there and moving cameras is still not worth the probable risk! My plan is to hold what I have and just hunt it! I feel like I am positioned well to at least observe my early season spot, so what difference does it make?! I don't know if it is me getting older or what, but for some reason, now I know better. I know that my best action between now and September 24, is no action!
Lucky for me, I do have the benefit of a couple Tactacam Reveal cell cams keeping me entertained daily as well as a route to and from work that conveniently passes my hunting spots! I actually almost tagged one of my target bucks with my Xterra just last night!
In summary, this season, maybe less will be more. I am still going to hunt my heart out as previously discussed, but I am committed to making better choices and hunting smart. Starting with doing as little as possible in the field for the next 15 days!
Hunting is a lifestyle that brings us together! It is something to cherish! Regardless of your tactics, experience, beliefs, successes, and failures, don't forget, we are all in this together as hunters and we should always promote and celebrate the legal harvesting of game.
Until next time, good luck and happy hunting!