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How to Hunt Deer During Gun Season

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How Bass Fisherman Rick Clunn Showed Me I Needed to Be a Two Season Deer Hunter

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Editor’s Note: Professional bass fisherman Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, who has won the Bassmasters Classic four times and numerous other bass-fishing awards too many to mention, helped me learn in 1984 why I should become a two-season deer hunter. Clunn told me then that, “You’re never more ready to compete and fish in a bass tournament than you are when you’ve just finished a tournament.” The same is true – you’re never more ready to hunt deer with a rifle as you are after hunting deer with your bow, since the beginning of bow season. If you’ve started out deer season hunting with your bow, you’re already tuned-up, know what’s happening in the woods once gun/deer season arrives and will be more ready to harvest a buck than if you don’t hunt two seasons.

In 1984, I interviewed Rick Clunn, the first person to earn $1 million by fishing for bass professionally, just before the Classic began, realizing that he’d just fished in a bass tournament in Arizona, where the temperatures had climbed to more than 110 degrees. I asked, “How can you possibly think you have a chance at winning this Classic? You’ve been fishing and competing hard for 10 days in the Arizona desert. You haven’t had any rest since you got here to fish the 1984 Classic. Now, you have to go out and compete against the best bass anglers in the world. Why do you think you have a chance to win?”

I’ll never forget what Clunn told me as he narrowed his eyes, smiled and answered, “John, you don’t understand.  I’m never more mentally prepared to fish a tournament than the day after a tournament ends. I’ve been thinking for days about how to choose the best lures, where to find bass and how to catch them before I’ve arrived here. I’m better prepared for this tournament than any tournament I’ve ever fished in my life. I expect to do really well here, because all of my fishing systems are working and on-alert.”

If you didn’t know Rick Clunn, you’d think he loved to brag, had a cocky attitude or had tried to psyche himself up for one of the biggest events in his life.  But if you knew the man behind the legend, you’d realize that Rick Clunn:

* didn’t lie;

* had the reputation as one of the most-serious anglers who ever played the game;

* never thrived on false confidence; and

* had the ability to accomplish physically what he could perceive mentally.

I did have a somewhat-eerie feeling about what Clunn told me. But, I’d interviewed him to try to determine the effects of mental attitude on fishing performance. Then when I asked Clunn, “What could cause you to lose this tournament?” he replied without hesitation, “I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t win.” On that day in 1984, the other competitors in the Classic gave me excuses about why they wouldn’t succeed in this Classic. Clunn, the only fisherman who predicted a victory, went out and won the Classic. He also caught the heaviest three-day limit of bass – 75.09 pounds of bass – that any angler ever brought to the scales in a Classic before. When Clunn stood on the victory stand, President George Bush, Sr., and the governor of Arkansas at that time, Bill Clinton, presented him with his award. The only other sports achievement I know of that comes close to what Rick Clunn did on that day in Arkansas was when Babe Ruth pointed over the homerun fence with his bat, and then, did hit a homerun.

Rick Clunn’s words apply to the deer hunter’s success because you’re never more ready to take a big buck with a gun than when you’ve spent several weeks hunting bucks with your bow.  If you bowhunt for whitetails, you:

* will get into the woods and start scouting before the season, which enables you to find out where the deer will move and travel before gun hunters even think about deer hunting;

* will have checked out your tree stand, your camouflage, your GPS and all the equipment you use for hunting, long before the opening day of gun deer season;

* will start seeing deer before the gun hunters ever do;

* will see some good-sized bucks that you may not get a shot at with your bow but will know where they live and travel;

* will have the opportunity to take a doe or several does before gun/deer season begins and have practiced shooting accurately, waiting on your shot and not getting nervous when deer come close enough for you to take them with a bow;

* will have had an opportunity to take a buck before gun season and to blood trail and tune your skills up before gun season arrives;

* will have pinpointed several productive stand sites and marked them with your GPS hand-held receiver long before the gun hunters start looking for stand sites;

* will have shooting lanes cleared to enable you to see deer coming where you can shoot your bow at 30 yards or less that you also can use during gun/deer season;

* can hunt all the places that most of the gun hunters will hunt before the gun hunters enter the woods;

* can target food sources like crops, white oak acorns and other lush deer food that you may not find available once gun season arrives;

* get to develop your hunting senses;

* have several weeks of deer-hunting experience that the gun/deer hunters don’t have; and

* will know where you’ve hunted with your bow, have a good idea of where gun hunters will hunt and realize you don’t need to go to these areas once gun/deer season starts.

To learn more about hunting deer with John E. Phillips’ Amazon Kindle eBooks, print books and Audible books (latest Audible is “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro”) and Nook books, click here at

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