Thread: Hunting Skills
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Old March 16, 2013, 01:38 AM   #21
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Join Date: August 25, 2008
Location: 1B ID
Posts: 10,103
I'm not a blind/stand hunter. I'm a stalker. I take off into the mountains, and may cover 10+ miles in a day, trying to find my prey. I don't know if that's what you're looking for, but I figured I'd try to add some generalized (and hopefully short) responses here:

Deer behavior (finding the deer, knowing where to set up your stand, lots more in this category)
-Every area is different, and the animals may spontaneously change their travel routes and habits on a weekly basis. Experience and knowledge of the area really come into play. Being able to read a topo map is a great head start, but actually seeing the land that topo map represents can turn all of your preconceived notions upside down, due to unforeseen circumstances.
"Hot Spots" are always a good thing to hone in on: wallows, isolated water holes, "super highway" game trails, bedding areas with massive amounts of use, mineral-rich soil, or anything else that may be important in the area.
Choke points can almost always be used to a hunters advantage, too (this is one of those times where being able to read a topo map can give you a head start in locating such a feature).
Most importantly.... Deer, Elk, Antelope, and most other big game animals are lazy. If they aren't running away from a predator, they're going to take the path of least resistance. Even if they are running away, they may still take the easiest route for maintaining speed.

Deer anatomy (knowing where to aim for clean kills)
-Study anatomical drawings, help field dress and butcher other animals, and understand what you're shooting (capabilities of the rifle, cartridge, and bullet).

Tracking skills -- incl both before & after shooting
-Scrapes and rubs can help you get closer to a buck, but plain old hoof prints can be more useful. Size and shape of tracks are useful in determining animal size and health (and even sex). Orientation, depth, drag marks, stride length, and proximity can determine speed, type of gait (bounding, running, loping, etc), how far the animal was likely to have traveled. And, of course, you always need to be able to read the age of the tracks. If they're 3 days old, they helpful, but not as much as something that's 5 minutes old.
Poop is useful, as well, but most hunters don't enjoy grabbing piles of feces to see how warm it is, or checking to see what the animals have been eating. (I know one hunter that has been know to taste it, if it looks exceptionally fresh. )

Judging the distance / angle of the shot, knowing which shots to pass up
-Practice and experience matter the most. Time spent with your firearm and the load you hunt with is very important. Additional experience with that rifle and load, while pursuing small game, hogs, or varmints is even more helpful.
Knowing when to pass is a very personal thing, relying heavily on the hunter's ethics. I, personally, won't take a shot I don't know I can make. If there's ANY doubt, I pass (or find a way to improve my confidence, before taking the shot).

Field cleaning
-I took a Hunters' Ed class when I was about 13 years old. I know we watched a few videos on field-dressing Elk, Deer, and fowl. But... All I really remember was a stupid "burning snowball" stunt the instructor pulled, and all the bullet holes in the ceiling of the classroom.
When it was time for me to field dress my first animal (Antelope), I actually had 2 of them to take care of, and it was going to be 45 to 90 minutes in the hot sun before an experienced hunter could lend a hand. I dove in with my crappy knife, doing my best to remove what I thought I should, while trying not to taint the meat and attempting to keep the liver and heart clean. The experienced hunters arrived in time to guide me through proper removal of the anus, genitalia, and colon (a critical task). -I made some mistakes, but none were serious; and I learned A LOT from that experience.
Reading books and watching videos can offer insight and valuable warnings, but there's nothing as useful as diving right in.
Having a good knife helps a lot. Buying a more appropriate knife (or set of knives) after you realize the first one was a mistake, is something that comes from experience.

How to drag the carcass out of the woods
-Plan ahead. When that plan falls apart for whatever reason the Gods chose that day.... Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

How to cut up the carcass & store the meat for use
-Books are very helpful in this case. However... it doesn't hurt to just cut a quarter off the animal, and start de-boning by following the muscle groups. With a little experience, you learn what types of muscles are best for which uses, and how picky you have to be about trimming sinew from each cut (fat is bad - get rid of all of it).
Storage seems to be a personal decision. My family prefers wrapping everything in freezer paper, but most hunters we know tend to prefer vacuum-packaging methods (and a few still use canning/smoking/preservation methods). Each method has its pros and cons that have to be weighed by the end-user.

(Those were 'short' responses... )
"Such is the strange way that man works -- first he virtually destroys a species and then does everything in his power to restore it."
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