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Christian Outdoor Alliance
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Guiding Youth to a Relationship with Christ Through the Outdoors
Guiding Youth to a Relationship with Christ Through the Outdoors

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Sasser: What you should consider before you head for the deer stand on opening day

White-tailed deer are the most sought-after Texas game animals. They re also the most common big game animals with an estimated statewide population of 3.8 million whitetails.

By RAY SASSERStaff Writerrsasser@dallasnews.com

The firearms season for white-tailed deer begins 30 minutes before official sunrise Saturday. Here are some things to consider as you head for the deer stand on opening day:
Check the wind direction before you leave camp. Unless your stand is significantly elevated to place your scent well above the ground, choose a hunting spot where the wind is blowing in your face.
If you have a phone signal, use your smart phone to check the morning’s weather forecast. If the wind direction changes, you need a fallback plan and everyone in the hunting party should know where everyone else plans to hunt.
At the very least, spray your gear, clothing, boots, cap, gloves and backpack, with a scent neutralizer like archery hunters use. Though not infallible, the spray helps erase human odor.
If you only have one deer stand available to hunt, and the wind is wrong, the setup may still work if you keep the back windows closed. If the stand is well constructed, the wind may swirl around it without carrying your odor.
If you see a deer react to your scent, it’s time to back out and leave the spot alone until the wind is more favorable, especially if you suspect there’s a good buck feeding near the stand. Spooked by human scent, a mature buck may avoid the stand location.
You should also be as quiet as possible as you approach a stand on opening day. A quiet approach is not necessary if a hunting guide or ranch hand routinely drives past the stand and puts out corn with a vehicle-mounted feeder. In that case, noise can be your friend, masking the sounds you make as you climb into the blind on a still morning.
Most automatic feeders are timed to dispense bait at legal shooting time in hopes that deer will hang around for 30 minutes or longer. In some cases, the deer travel for several hundred yards when they hear the feeder or sense that it’s almost feeding time.
Use a green or red LED light on a keychain so you can see well enough to walk quietly to a stand, then use the light to organize your gear once you’ve climbed into the stand. Experts say the deer can’t see red or green light hues but the muted shades cast enough light for a hunter’s purposes.
Once you’ve climbed into the stand, make certain your binoculars and whatever other gear you might need are easily accessible. Store your backpack in a corner where you can get to it but where it will not be in the way. Leave the zippers open, to quietly access snacks or water.
Never walk or climb with a loaded rifle. Though the pendulum is swinging in favor of increasingly accurate autoloading rifles, most Texas hunters still favorite bolt-action rifles. With either-style rifle, keep sounds to a minimum by loading a rifle’s magazine before leaving your vehicle.
Do not chamber a round until you are in the stand with your gear organized. You should then quietly chamber a bullet and carefully check to make certain the rifle’s safety is engaged. Make sure the rifle is unloaded before climbing down from an elevated stand or exiting a ground blind.
As soon as you’re in the stand, practice getting a solid rifle rest in the direction you expect to shoot. The ideal rest is a three-point rest with the rifle forearm on the window of the blind or a shooting support, the rifle butt firmly against your shoulder and the elbow of your shooting shoulder supported the best way possible, often by turning a chair sideways and using the back rest as an elbow rest.
Plan how best to achieve a solid rifle rest before you’ve decided to shoot a deer. Once you’ve made a decision to shoot, the excitement level spikes and it’s easier for even a veteran to make bad decisions.

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