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.
I remember my 23rd birthday, and the first deer rifle I’d ever received. Until that time, anyone hunting at our hunting club had to shoot a shotgun or a bow, both close-range weapons. From the first day I started hunting deer until my 23rd birthday, I rarely ever made a shot longer than 50 yards. However, when I received one of those high-powered rifles with a telescopic sight for a birthday present, my dad told me, “Now, son, you can shoot deer as far as you can see them.” I felt like the king of the world. I realized I wouldn’t have to:
* scout as much as I generally did,
* move as quietly as I usually did;
* hunt as carefully and consider the wind’s direction and my human odor as much as I had before; and
* shoot as accurately as I did when I had my bow or the bead on my shotgun for a shooting device.
I figured my high-powered rifle would allow me to stack bucks up like cardboard. However, after I missed the first 12 bucks I shot at, I decided I needed to know more about hunting with this high-powered rifle. I missed because I:
* would mount my rifle immediately and get off a quick shot when I saw a deer at 75 to 100 yards like I did when shooting a shotgun, using .00 buckshot and taking the shot at 50 yards or less;
* squeezed the trigger once I spotted a deer in my scope but generally missed, remembering that with my shotgun if I could see a buck, I could kill him;
* didn’t use a rest or take my time aiming, two things I never did when shooting a shotgun; and
* shot at ranges I’d never shot at or practiced at before and didn’t know anything about bullet drop, holdover and/or ballistics.
After I went through my humbling season of hunting with that high-powered rifle with the sight, I used my bow for bow season the next year. I soon realized that I saw and took more deer with my bow than I did with my high-powered rifle. So, at the first of gun/deer season, I laid my rifle down, picked up my shotgun and hunted with it like I’d hunted with my bow. I continued to take deer.
However, then, I started feeling guilty. My family had spent all that money on the rifle with the high-powered sight, and I didn’t even hunt with it. Once I knew I had to learn to hunt with that deer rifle, I stumbled onto a tactic that I still use today that works well.
I convinced myself that my deer rifle wasn’t really a deer rifle but instead was a shotgun. I decided to hunt with my rifle just like I hunted with my shotgun and my bow. I quit using my scope at 9X and screwed it back to 4X. I hunted like a bowhunter and a shotgun hunter and soon bagged deer with that rifle at least as effectively as I did with my shotgun and much more effectively than I did with my bow. So, someone should become a two-season deer hunter for a very simple reason. A good bowhunter who shoots accurately, knows the woods and understands how to hunt with a bow can take those same bowhunting skills and use them when he hunts with a rifle. He will bag more and bigger bucks if he hunts the same kind of places he hunts with his bow.
To take more and bigger bucks this season, become a bowhunter first. When gun season arrives, hunt just like you do with your bow. Then you’ll see and take more bucks than most gun hunters do. Remember, you’re never more ready to take a buck with a gun than on the last day of bow season, if you’ve bowhunted all season with a bow.
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 https://johninthewild.com/books/#deer.