#1 – Hang a Treestand
Hunters who can quickly and safely lock a stand around a tree kill more deer than ground-bound hunters. Do it wrong, or in a hurry, and it will kill you.
First, pick a straight, strong tree without a lot of lower branches but with decent outline-hiding foliage. Next, don your safety harness and clip your tree belt around the trunk. With a small handsaw or pruner, remove any branches you can reach while standing on the ground. If you use screw-in steps, auger in the first step lower than knee height.
Screw in steps a foot apart at alternating 90-degree angles, so that the rungs are easy to scale. As you climb, lop off branches until you reach 15 to 18 feet.
Haul up your stand with the rope that you have tied to your belt. Set the stand’s teeth against the trunk and pull down to engage the bark. Step onto the platform and force your weight down, making sure the stand is level and secure.
#2 – Blow a Feeding Chuckle
Easy. Say “tikka, tikka, tikka, tikka” into your duck call. But breathe it from deep in your chest and make it rise and fall like a song. You’ll decoy drakes deaf to all those brassy hail calls.
#3 – Snare a Rabbit
Drape a lasso over a branch and catch a bunny. A cinch, right? This is such a low-odds enterprise that the best trappers set out dozens of snares. Size and location are critical. A 4-inch slip loop hung over a well-used rabbit trail will work. Sometimes.
#4 – Pack an Elk
This is a beautiful chore, because it means you’ll eat well this winter. Rule No. 1: Don’t haul bones. Pack a couple of cotton game bags for deboned meat. Rule No. 2: Keep the meat cool and dry, even if you have to drape deboned meat over tree branches for an evening and pick out needles when you get home. Rule No. 3: Pack the best pieces of meat first and save the rack and cape for last.
#5 – Stop a running Buck
You’re at full draw, but the buck won’t stop. And your grunt tube is in your pack. No sweat. You have all the equipment you need in your throat: Say “WAAAAAH” with a short-“ah” sound. It will sound like a real bleat, not the cry of failure.
#6 – Hook a Limit of Ducks
Picture the letter J. Sprinkle a dozen dekes along the long leg of the letter, which should point like an arrow in the direction the wind is blowing. Save the majority of your decoys for the rounded bell of the letter, which should bottom out just 20 yards in front of your blind. Leave an opening in the cup of your J, where the birds will land.
#7 – Leaf-Rake a Gobbler
A: Gobblers will hang up out of shotgun range. B: Settle their nerves by shuffling leaves with the hand that isn’t holding the gun. Sound like a turkey scratching for acorns. C: Kill the gobbler.
#8 – Fool a Squirrel
When a squirrel stays on the off-side of the tree trunk, fool him by taking off your jacket, laying it on the ground, and then slowly moving around the tree. The squirrel won’t know which to be more afraid of–your decoy or you–and will freeze to the trunk, offering an easy shot.
#9 – Befriend Your Buddy’s Bird Dog
Want to bag more birds than your buddy? Then make friends with his dog. Sneak him snacks, stroke his ears, make high-pitched kissy noises. Before long the dog will be pointing and retrieving your birds, not his owner’s.
#10 – Take a Kid Hunting
There’s a Chinese proverb about planting trees: The best time was 50 years ago; the second-best time is today. It’s the same with introducing first-time hunters to the field. Whether or not you shoot a deer or bag a limit of grouse, take them, answer their questions, let them make decisions, but guide them to the right choices. Do it right, and you’ll have a hunting partner for life. But just do it.
From the May 2012 issue of Outdoor Life magazine.