By Bob Humphrey
Success, it is said, is where preparation meets opportunity. We do the best we can to prepare for every hunt, but sometimes circumstances occur that are outside our expectations. That’s when adaptability also factors into the equation. I’ll give you a few examples.
The sun was sinking low, marking the end of another hunting day, and I had yet to see a deer. My heart skipped a beat when I spied a brown shape moving across the far hillside. Hoisting my binoculars I located not a deer, but a coyote. Fortunately, I was prepared for just such an occurrence.
Predators like coyotes and bobcats are not uncommon sightings from a deer stand, which is why I carry a Knight & Hale “Shaft” - a mouth-blown predator call roughly the size of a pen, designed for up-close encounters. A few squeaks imitating a distressed rodent is sometimes enough to lure a predator into bow or gun range.
And that’s precisely what happened. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I shifted gears, pulled out the Shaft and did my best pocket gopher in distress call. The animal I was watching quickly vanished over the hill, but just as quickly another appeared, and trotted boldly in to my location.
We often head out after one particular species of game. But seasons overlap, and several species may utilize the same habitat. Being prepared for more than one can sometimes turn the tables on a successful hunt.
Several days later I was enjoying a gorgeous fall morning on stand when intermittent footsteps in the leaves suddenly caught my attention. “That was no squirrel,” I thought, as I slowly turned, simultaneously grabbing my bow. Whatever it was, it would soon break out into the open, so I readied for the shot. Instead of the deer I expected, out stepped a grouse.
Again I was prepared. Deftly as I could, I switched from a broadhead-tipped arrow to one with a judo tip. Unfortunately, the bird made it back to cover before I could draw and release, but at least I had the right equipment.
Expect the unexpected is a good motto for the hunter, and years of experience have taught me what that means. Sitting in the blind overlooking a spread of duck decoys I heard distant goose music over the treetops. I quickly shucked my duck loads, switched to goose loads and grabbed the goose call that hung on my lanyard between two duck calls. My calling turned the big birds just enough for the heavier loads, which folded one neatly into my spread.
The above are but a few examples. Possibilities vary with season and location, but the important thing is to incorporate a broader perspective when preparing for a hunt. Focus most of your attention on your intended species, but don’t overlook alternative possibilities -- those occasional targets of opportunity.