In the Hunt
There's more to hunting than sitting in a stand waiting on "the" shot. It's not necessarily easy, but with a little preparation (and maybe a guide), even a novice can have a great outing this fall.
After being stuck in the house, trying to beat the heat after a longer summer than expected, it feels fantastic to get outdoors and enjoy nature. For a lot of men and women in Oklahoma, spending time outside not only means hiking the trails or picnics in the park, but it also means wild game hunting. Some say Northeast Oklahoma is prime real estate for hunting, where plenty of memories can be made during recreation times like these.
However, for those of us who have always dreamed of taking down that enormous whitetail buck or tracking a wild, feral half-ton hog but have never even hunted, figuring out where to start is a huge task itself.
Lots of questions need to be answered before heading into the great outdoors. What weapon will you use? Bow, rifle, handgun? What will you hunt? Hog, deer, bear, rabbit, or squirrel? Should you use a professional guide or go on your own? If you hire a guide, what comes with their services? Answer all those questions, and you may have the hunting experience of a lifetime. Fail to ponder all the options, and you could end up spending a boatload of money, have a miserable time, and have very little to show from it.
Let’s take a look at some key things to consider, before going on your first hunt.
Ben Pogany with Pogany Whitetails, a hunting preserve 30 minutes south of Tulsa, says there’s a lot to think about for a first-timer. This even includes what you wear.
“If it’s hot, dress appropriately. If it’s cold, be ready,” says Pogany. “You can’t sit in a tree stand for hours if you’re freezing. It’s not going to be fun for you, and you’re not going to be successful because you’re going to be moving around too much.”
Pogany says the important issues are being comfortable shooting and making sure the scope of the bow or rifle you’re using is sighted in. Before your first hunt, go to a shooting range and test your skills, as well as remind yourself of the safety rules. Take the time to make sure you feel at ease with your weapon before going out into the real situation.
“A good guide,” says Pogany, “will take you to the range and make sure you can shoot. That might also include helping you sight in your gun.”
Most of us who have never been hunting aren’t going to think about making sure the rifle or bow’s scope will help us hit what we’re shooting. Pogany says that’s one reason to have a guide go with you on your first outing. A good guide can sight in a weapon much quicker than the person who goes out and buys the first rifle off the shelf. Nobody wants to put a bad shot on an animal and then watch it suffer.
“Everybody wants a clean kill,” Pogany says. “Everybody wants an ethical situation. A guide is going to help you with that aspect of it. Especially if you’re new to the sport.”
Also, unlike a whitetail deer, if you put a bad shot on a hog, it can come after you. That’s when the hunted becomes the hunter, and you’re what’s on the menu. Not good.
That brings us to the issue of what to hunt. Deer, hog, some other smaller animal? Take hogs, for example. Wild hogs are a dangerous animal and a significant menace in Oklahoma. Cattle farmers have to minimize loss by getting rid of them. Hogs root their beds in the ground to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. But those holes are just the right size for cows to break their legs in.
“If you raise cattle, then having too many hogs on your land is pretty tough to take,” says Pogany. “They also destroy hayfields and cause other trouble for landowners.”
A service offered at Pogany Whitetails is tracking hogs on a farmer’s land and in the wild, taking them to their ranch outside of Kellyville, Oklahoma, and letting people hunt them.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re hunting,” says Pogany, “staying flexible is a key, because depending on which way the wind is blowing, the hunt changes.
“Scent is the biggest thing. We’re going to adjust where we hunt and how we hunt, based on the wind.”
Deer are more astute to their surroundings, according to Pogany, and are more likely to smell a hunter than a hog would. Scent is everything when you’re hunting whitetail. Staying mindful of the way the wind is blowing is paramount. Hogs are typically just rooting around looking for food and not picking up on scent as much.
To that end, use products to help mask scents, such as soap, body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent. You can also take bottles of scent-blocking spray to use while you’re in the great outdoors.
Using a guide on your first hunt is up to you, but a few answered questions about a guide you’re considering might come in handy. How much money do their services cost? What do you get for the money? The success rate is a huge factor. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on a guide and not kill anything. Is the guide going to process the animal for you? Do they take you to the shooting range beforehand? What do they offer?
For over a decade, Pogany Whitetails has been answering those questions and so many more. His company also offers a three day, all-inclusive trophy whitetail hunt that includes lodging, meals, drinks (including beer and wine), and a one-on-one guide. They also offer several exotic hunts including wildebeest, zebra, white buffalo, and elk.
In for the Kill
Even with a great mentor or guide, you will likely still find yourself making some typical rookie mistakes. But take heart: even avid hunters find ways to mess up hunts regularly.
Here are some of the common mistakes beginning hunters make and how to avoid them.
Too many new and experienced hunters don’t spend enough time practicing with their weapon of choice. This is particularly true for bowhunters, who typically require much more practice to maintain proper form and consistent shot execution. The best way to ensure you can make a great shot is by practicing year-round in as close to real hunting conditions as possible. For bowhunters, this may mean practicing from an elevated position and taking shots at a variety of distances and angles. For firearm hunters, it may mean practicing freehand shots from various positions. You won’t always have a nice solid rifle rest when that buck-of-a-lifetime presents a broadside shot.
Dress for success
If it’s warm, wear layers. You are likely to be cold in the morning and evening and hot during the day. For cold weather situations, coveralls and heavy coats are the norm. Keep your head and neck warm with a warmer and cap. Boots are the most critical piece of clothing for cold weather hunting. There are several things you can buy on the cheap and get away with; hunting boots are not one of them. Buy quality waterproof boots. For cold weather hunting, they should have at least 800 grams of Thinsulate. Keep your feet warm, and you can keep hunting.
Play the wind
Regardless of which scent-eliminating products you use, you will never be 100% scent-free. The only surefire way to avoid being busted by a deer’s nose is by staying downwind of the deer. Of course, to do so, you first need to have a good idea of which direction the deer will come from. You will also have to be mindful of the wind direction at all times.
Hang it right
When selecting a stand tree, always look for potential issues. Is the tree alive and safe to put a stand in? You’ll also want to consider if you will have any cover in the stand to break up your outline. You will need to know which direction, in relation to the tree, the sun will rise and set, so you aren’t left staring straight into the sun on a morning or evening hunt. Also, keep in mind from which direction the deer are most likely to approach. You’ll want your stand to be positioned in a way that allows you to get a shot without a lot of excessive movement.
Know the land
If at all possible, you should be familiar with the land you are hunting. Sure, you may get an opportunity to hunt on a piece of property or even public hunting land that you don’t have the chance to scout before the hunt. However, if you do have full access to the property you will hunt, you should put in the time to be well versed in the details of that property.
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