Nobody is the best at anything when they start.
You can’t just begin and instantly be great; it all takes practice.
Because hunting usually has this macho guy B.S. attached to it, newcomers feel like they’re going to be put down by their peers.
I can’t speak for every hunter out there, but more often than not, we’re just ecstatic to have someone to teach.
If you’re nervous about making beginner-level hunting mistakes, let me take the edge off for you.
These are the top 12 worst ones, and if you know how to avoid these, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the hunting mistakes, we got you covered:
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- 1 #1 Letting Your Guard Down
- 2 #2 Having Gear in Disarray
- 3 #3 Arriving Overencumbered
- 4 #4 Not Scouting Ahead
- 5 #5 Being Impatient
- 6 #6 Closing in Too Fast (Bow Hunting)
- 7 #7 Tree Stand Wriggling
- 8 #8 Running Every Call
- 9 #9 Talking
- 10 #10 Over-Scenting Yourself
- 11 #11 Ignoring Wind Direction
- 12 #12 Being Nervous
- 13 Start Off the Right Way
#1 Letting Your Guard Down
You’re in the throws of nature, and if you aren’t careful, you could wind up gravely wounded.
Just because you’re hunting something simple like waterfowl doesn’t mean that’s all you’re going to run into.
If you’re hunting, chances are a predator is also hunting somewhere close by.
It’s easy to think, “Nothing’s happened in hours, I can take a load off,” but it’s the worst mistake you could make.
It doesn’t matter how good your gear is, or how quick you are with that knife by your side—stay alert, all the time.
This will not only keep you safe but make you a far better hunter in the long haul.
#2 Having Gear in Disarray
You’ve got all the necessary gear for hunting, which is a pretty good start.
Now, can you tell me how to check each individual piece for damages? Do you know how to secure, repair, or inspect everything you have on?
I hope you do because you can’t rely on gear that isn’t functioning properly.
Sometimes you push a piece of gear past its limits, sometimes accidents happen, but if you know what to look for in your gear, you’ll never be on the receiving end of it.
Bad situations can flip for the better if you know how to secure and maintain your own hunting gear.
#3 Arriving Overencumbered
Beginners want to be prepared for anything, and that bravado is good and all, but it’s not going to bag you a deer or waterfowl.
It’s just going to run you ragged, sap you of your energy, drain you of your focus, and make the entire experience miserable.
Every. Ounce. Counts.
When you’re preparing your gear, you want to count every single ounce (including the empty backpack weight), your belt buckle, your boots, your pants, your hat—account for it all.
Just like a grocery list, the amount is going to add up faster than you imagine.
Look for gear that’s considered lightweight or ultralight, but be sure that the materials hold up well.
Ultralight gear allows for easier travel that won’t wear you down before you make it to your destination.
#4 Not Scouting Ahead
As a beginner, you’re going to learn all the different ways that animals can hear, smell, and detect your presence.
If you don’t scout ahead properly, they’ll stay privy to your whereabouts while you operate without the faintest idea of where they are.
Whitetail can stay a mile ahead of you. Once waterfowl take to the sky (unless you’re already primed to shoot), they’re out of range.
You can offset your entire hunting venture by a couple of hours if you don’t scout.
#5 Being Impatient
Whether it’s in a tree stand, a dugout, or you haven’t seen a waterfowl for the last two hours, it can get a bit frustrating.
When you’re frustrated, you’re less likely to stay put. People get impatient.
I’ve been with hunters that are so impatient they end up putting an earphone in one ear and listening to music, completely ignoring the hunt.
What are you doing, man?
Hunting is not a sport for the impatient. If you can’t stand the idea of sitting still for that long, then you simply shouldn’t go hunting.
Plan shorter trips and graduate to all-day hunting trips if that’s what you have to do, but if you’re impatient or antsy, get it under control.
#6 Closing in Too Fast (Bow Hunting)
This is another fault of impatience.
If you land an arrow in your deer, don’t immediately rush towards it.
An injured buck may rest if there are no visible predators nearby, despite sustaining injuries.
It might be a bit mind-boggling, but they can still run at full-speed if your arrow didn’t kill them right away.
I say this because a newcomer’s arrow shot isn’t going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly okay.
However, that deer or buck could run away and put miles between the two of you if you approach it too quickly after landing your shot.
Remain in your stand or at your vantage point, and watch it. Sometimes it can take an hour for the injury to kill the deer.
#7 Tree Stand Wriggling
Stay still on your tree stand.
For the love of the hunt, just stay still.
While deer have terrible vision, they’re still aware of their environments and will visually notice any movements.
You should be positioning in your tree stand to make the shot and actually finish your kill without having to get down or move your position.
If you move around, your boots are going to scrape against the material of your tree stand, make a ruckus, and then send the deer running for the hills.
Find a way to get comfortable, and unless you need to fix your legs from going numb, don’t move a muscle.
#8 Running Every Call
If you use a call, and your prey appears, it’s time to remember the old saying “Slow and steady wins the race.”
You’ve just alerted the thing, that’s why it’s here. It’s on alert, so the faster you act, the quicker it’s going to scamper or fly away.
Just because it responded to your call does not mean you’re at the finish line.
Run your calls, and give some time to a response.
I know the anticipation of seeing a whitetail after 3.5 hours in a tree stand makes you want to jump for joy, but you need to train yourself to flip into a cool, calm and collected mindset instead.
It’s going to pay off in the long run.
Hunting is a social sport, but it also isn’t.
You can spend eight hours with your best friend or mentor without saying a word, but for a newcomer, the silence is deafening.
It makes you feel like you’ve already let somebody down, or like your mentor has no faith in you.
Don’t think that crap; just flip into focus, and let your actions speak for you.
Keep quiet during the hunt so you can also account for your footsteps and ensure you don’t make any unnecessary sounds.
#10 Over-Scenting Yourself
One of the number one tips for beginners is to mask your scent.
The wind can carry your natural musk miles away, deer and other prey can smell it, and go “Uh-oh, steer clear of the lake or you’re going to get shot.”
Well, that’s not how they communicate, but you get the point.
Your scent travels no matter what, so if you’re dousing on scent concealers, they’re just going to make you stand out.
Use the right amount to mask your natural scent, and then let it be.
#11 Ignoring Wind Direction
There are a ton of hunting apps available to help you out on this one.
If you’re going to have your phone on you, which most hunters will, you’d might as well have a few helpful apps on there.
Your scent travels, even if you’ve done a good job covering it up.
The wind can carry small particles of your scent to prey over a mile away, in most cases.
Wind direction doesn’t change nearly as often as wind speed, and when it does, it’s not a full 360° switch. It just differs slightly.
You can adjust your course as you travel through the woods if you have this up-to-date information at your fingertips.
#12 Being Nervous
We make more mistakes when we’re nervous.
Hopefully, if you’re about to go out hunting, then you’ve already researched what you’re going into.
You already know most of what you’re going to see.
Being as prepared as possible for a situation will take the edge off.
You need to understand that some things are out of your control, but if you manage those that are in your control, you have no reason to be nervous or worried about heading out.
Start Off the Right Way
You’re new to hunting, but thanks to our free resources here on DecoyPro, you don’t have to feel like a newbie when you set foot on the trail.
Build up your know-how here before ever raising a gun to your shoulder, or pulling back a bow release—we’ll start you off right.