Deer, Hunting

Reflections From My First Deer Season

The day after Christmas my tree stand came down. My last hunt was on December 9th, when I killed my first deer. Since that hunt, I had felt the hectic chaos that comes with December and the holidays. I hoped to hunt at some point before the end of the season but alas, one more hunt was not in the cards for me. As I took my stand down I began to really reflect on what I had learned during my first deer season.

Deer movement can change at any time for no apparent reason.

Well, there is a reason but, it’s not always immediately apparent. We based our hunting locations off of trails, sign, and what we were seeing on the few game cameras we had out. It always seems like we’d see great consistent sign and as soon as we hung a stand, all of the deer disappeared. Even though I had some assistance from my boyfriend, I asked that he let me do things myself which often meant learning my own lessons.

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A buck we affectionately named Dapper Dan because of his slightly palmated antlers.

I hung my own stands in places that we had seen sign and had lots of pictures but, as soon as I would begin hunting that set up, the deer would disappear. Every spot I hung a stand to hunt I seemed to be a week or two late from seeing the action that we had been picking up on camera. Which leads me to my next lesson I learned…

Hunting isn’t easy and you reach a point where you want to give up.

I primarily hunted public lands. It was thrilling and exciting to hunt on something that was so vast and was mine (and other’s as well). I longed for that coveted public land kill knowing that it would be more difficult to come by than a private land kill. I often receive snickers and shaking of head when asked where I hunted. After all, you can’t bait on public land and often there are hikers and campers walking around also enjoying the wilderness. Also, hunting is called hunting for a reason. I only saw deer on one of the 20 hunts that I had.

I let not seeing deer get to my morale, as I’m sure lots of hunters do. There came a point during the season that I shouldn’t have been hunting. My head was not in the right spot, and I hated sits that I really should have enjoyed just because I was in a negative headspace.

I hunted hard from the beginning of season in addition to working full time. By the time November rolled around and I really needed to be in a stand or a blind, I was so burnt out and tired that I had to force myself to hunt or refused to hunt at all.

Reflecting on the hunts I didn’t enjoy, I have a better idea of when I should be hunting the spots that were promising but had no movement this past year. I have several spots that should be hot in October and I look forward to hunting them.

Furthermore, I feel that I have a better self awareness of what I can handle based on the other things I have going on in my life. I know when it’s time to say no to a hunt in exchange for sleep or some R & R time. There’s no reason to have a bad hunt simply due to one’s frame of mind!

Going into the 2018-19 deer season I plan on hunting less in September and hunting smarter in October-December. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is also considering changes to season dates that would allow archery only hunting during the time of the year I would like to hunt my ideal areas. I hope means less pressure for deer during this time and more opportunity to see movement for me.

Hunting is easier when you have the right gear.

I’m relatively new to hunting and trying to find gear that fits me correctly that is durable has come with it’s challenges. I personally have enjoyed the fit of First Lite’s gear for women but you can spend a pretty penny on the gear you need.

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I’m wearing my first First Lite piece here, the Women’s Lupine 170g Merino Crew.

I focused first on base layers. Once I had bought those I focused on some softer mid layers since it doesn’t get terribly cold in Western North Carolina by October. I still found that by mid season I was having a hard time completing a sit because I was FREEZING. I didn’t have enough layers to keep the wind out and keep me warm and I didn’t have the money to spend on a true cold weather system.

I began hunting from my sleeping bag at the end of October. Although not ideal, I did get a kick out of the thought of me looking like a giant forest green worm sitting in a tree stand and it did lengthen the time I was able to sit in the stand for a hunt. I actually was in my sleeping bag the day I killed my doe!

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By the end of season I was wearing First Lite’s Lupine Women’s Crew, Syringa Shorts, Larkspur Bottoms, hiking socks, Lowa Renegade hiking boots, Alturas Guide Pant, Mens’ Halstead Tech Fleece, Women’s Headband, and Merino Neck Gaiter.

Going into 2018-19, I’m keeping an eye out to the new releases from First Lite and Sitka in the hopes of getting some more cold weather pieces so that the sleeping bag doesn’t have to make an appearance for the 2018-19 season.

Hunting is fun when you’re part of a good team.

I fully expected to be incredibly competitive with my boyfriend during deer season. I have seen meme’s on the internet that say “We interrupt this relationship to bring you deer season,” and I thought that was going to happen. Boy was I wrong!

I was so proud of my boyfriend when he killed his first deer of the season and I was so happy to come help him field dress her in the dark. Although I was at times envious of the deer he saw on his sits and at times I was a little bitter to his face that he was seeing deer and I wasn’t. I was still very supportive of his hunts.

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My boyfriends first deer of the season.

We are a team and his success is also my success. For me to be competitive and not appreciative of his harvests would really not be beneficial to me. I offered my help, encouraged him to hunt and in return he offered the same.

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Helping field dress his first deer of the season.

I’m so happy he was a part of my first kill too. Not saying that I couldn’t have done it without him but, it was so nice to share in such a wonderful moment with someone that I love who has taught me so much and really been my mentor and guide throughout the whole process.

I will continue to hunt with my boyfriend and I believe hunting has made our relationship stronger. We are so excited to be planning an antelope hunt in Wyoming coming up in October!

 

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