As I reflect back on the past year I wanted to share more of the lessons I had learned in hopes that another beginner may find something I type of use to them.
I had hunted in the past with minimal success. Deciding what big game species I wanted to concentrate on for my first time hunting in over twenty years was an easy decision for me. It was almost as if it was predetermined being that I chose the most abundant deer species in the area. Selecting an area to hunt was a little harder but not much harder. My state uses a lottery system and one has to get “drawn” for tags.
I had some local knowledge of the area, having been raised and worked here most of my life, I was familiar with most of the issues this country has. Water is the first issue, and a yearly one at that, being that we seldom get enough rain. That means it would be a “dry” hunt and the chances of getting rained on were slim to nonexistent. I was fortunate in that we did have a good summer rain season which occurred right after a forest fire took out most of the underbrush and dried and dead grass. It also removed a lot of the “cover” that these game animals use to elude us.
Lots of folks I talked with refused to hunt in this area due to the primary social issue in the area. That's human and drug smuggling. In my day job I am often around human/drug smugglers and sometimes even their victims. Take that issue and compound it with bandits that prey on both the smugglers and illegal border crossers and one can see why some would be reticent to hunt here. I certainly wouldn't want to be walking around out there after dark with a flashlight to give me away.
I have found that most Border Patrol Agents are good sources of information about an area once you break the ice. As I drove the roads, all dirt by the way, I would stop my truck as a BP vehicle was coming the other way. It seems that the guys that hunted would stop and chat. The city kids would “whiz” by acting as if they were in a race to the nearest coffee shop. Never be afraid to stop and chat with someone as you never know what nugget of information they may provide you. I've talked with locals, LEO's, and other hunters. Heck I may have even talked to a doper or bandit, I don't know. Once folks have you figured out, and where you fit in the scheme of things, they tend to be a little more friendly than if you just quickly wave and scurry on your way. I, and a buddy, talked with a local for almost an hour when he gave us information on a back way in to a water hole that wasn't on the map.
Ranchers can also be a great source of information. I tend to be friendly to folks until given a reason not to be. If I see a rancher going about his daily business I'll say hello and let him know what I'm doing. I'll also tell him of conditions I've found, like open gates, cut fences, and damaged water troughs that he may not know about. I'll also tell of what I did to correct the issue, if anything, and ask if this was the right thing to do. If not I'll offer to go back and undo what I did wrong. For example, there was a water tank with an open valve draining all the water on to the ground. I shut the valve off thinking it was probably illegal aliens getting a drink that caused this. It turns out the rancher had wanted to drain the water so he could move the tank. He wasn't mad, as I was doing what I thought was right, and my intentions were good. That little thing provided me with more information that was beneficial.
Listen to the locals and folks familiar with the area no matter where you are hunting. If an old timer, and everybody else, says the same thing the smart man or woman would call that a clue. See what people are saying, especially the locals. Ones who live and work in an area have a different perspective than someone that goes to that area for only a week or two every year.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'd much rather ask a “dumb question” than do something dumb. Besides, I was taught that the only dumb question was the one you didn't ask. Take other people's advice and tactics and develop them to work for you. That doesn't mean you are going to use every piece of advice you are given but think of it like cooking. A pinch of this advice, a smattering of this knowledge, and two spoonfuls of that method combines to create what works for you.
While two people may have very similar tactics, or methods, there will be slight or subtle difference. It is these difference that make each hunter unique. Good luck hunting and may all your roads be good ones.