It’s not as easy as you may think. Especially if you’re new to hunting or going to a region that is unfamiliar to you. Finding those sweet spots to hunt is a hunt within itself, and honestly, a necessary step in learning to be an effective outdoorsman.
Back in 2008, my wife and I pulled up stakes and left Idaho. It was a good career move, but living in Utah wasn’t working for us compared to what we were used to. In 2013, we were settled back in Idaho in the beautiful Panhandle.
I was only vaguely familiar with the area. The vast National Forest’s were close to town and seemingly endless. The downfall to it was I didn’t have a clue as to where the elk and deer were. The thick timber all looked the same, each dirt road was another adventure by way of getting lost. I hunted hard that first year back, with little success.
I spent hours on Google Earth. I talked with other hunters and listened closely for any hint at locations. Never did I ask directly for their spots, but would soak it up if they accidentally let an area slip. My truck emptied tank of gas after tank of gas as I searched the backcountry roads for areas to hike in. I put countless miles on my hunting boots searching for elky drainages or deer filled meadows.
This went on for two years. Actually, no. It still continues. The difference now is I have a decent handle on some high producing areas. But, it doesn’t make sense to stop the search now and limit myself. The search goes on forever.
Finding mule deer in the northern units of Idaho is a bit difficult. These are mainly whitetail units, but I’m a muley fanatic. After scanning an area on Google Earth in 2014, I took a drive to it the next day. It was a total gamble, I had never been there. Before OnX, I wouldn’t know if roads would be closed until I arrived.
They were open enough for me to get into the high country on foot. I had hiked less than a mile before spotting some mule deer does. I pushed a little further up the mountain. Suddenly, two muley bucks came into view less than a hundred yards away. The bigger one presented an easy shot and I put him down with my 30-30 Model 94 with iron sights. After all the work and challenges of new hunting units, it came together. I did it, and I did it alone.
I tell this story to help some people understand the complete satisfaction of the entirety of this hunt. It wasn’t simply the physical hunt on the mountain, my hunt started long before. The hours, miles, and sweat I put into this success made the outcome so much sweeter than if someone would have simply pointed me in the right direction.
Most hunters at all levels of success have put in this kind of time and effort. This is why they are hesitant to share locations, hunting spots, and information that took them years to obtain. It is cheapening your hunt to share this information with you. It also comes across to those of us that have put in this intense effort as lazy and unfair.
I am speaking to the DIY, OTC hunters on public land. This does not apply to hunters who hire guides or hunt high fence areas.
Social media is full of these posts. People looking for guidance and direction. Most don’t ask for exact locations, and there is nothing wrong with what they’re asking. Insight or past experiences in units is good stuff to learn from others. It’s the few that do ask for actual locations. Frankly, it’s annoying.
If you want to be a hunter, I would assume that you want to be a decent or even great hunter. Being a good hunter does not mean being a good shot with a bow or rifle; you need to know how to locate animals on your own. You need to put in your own work. Understand the animal, understand the mountains you hunt.
Relying on others to always point you in the direction or send you waypoints is not going to make you a good hunter. A good hunter understands the following questions:
- Why would there be animals here?
- What feed and water is available here?
- Why would they be here now, but not during hunting season?
Another important question:
- Why are there not animals in this area?
If you can start to answer these questions, you can begin to formulate some hunting plans on your own. However, it is up to you to learn this stuff. Good hunters understand their game animals. They have done the homework and can answer these questions. Oh yeah, these are just a few of the questions, the very basic starting points.
Let’s study some examples.
Social media post example: “Is anyone willing to tell me where to go for mule deer in Southwest Idaho? Not looking for your honey hole, but some direction would be helpful.”
No. You’re not going to get a lot of help with this kind of question. Especially using the term “honey hole.” There should be consequences for using that term, it’s overused and worn out.
Instead, try something like this: “I have been scouting unit (…) and am hunting mule deer this year. I think I have a really good game plan, but was hoping to bounce some ideas off of anyone that has experience in this unit. If so, can you PM me?”
This shows other hunters that you’re not trying to just milk them for a spot to hunt. You’ve done some work. It sets you apart from all the lazy ones and would be more likely to trigger someone to help you out. It also sends it out of public view by moving it to a private message format. I refuse to share area details where everyone can see it.
One of the reasons I chose to write on this topic was because of the anger these types of posts seem to create, especially on Facebook. Approaching these questions the right way may reduce the outrage, especially for non-residents.
I love helping new hunters, so please don’t misinterpret the meaning of this article. This doesn’t mean I want to help someone who appears unwilling to help themselves. But, if a new hunter is showing signs that he/she is motivated to learn, becomes self reliant in the hunting world, and will eventually be someone who will give back and contribute for the good of all hunters, I am more than happy to teach and help. When they don’t show these signs, I won’t waste my time. We don’t need these types of hunters.
If there is one key take away, its to never use the lame term “honey hole” ever, ever again.
Just kidding, kind of.
Simply, prove to yourself that you have the chops to be in the woods to battle your choice of game animals. Hunting is a full contact, all encompassing sport that requires strength of the mind as much as the physical requirements. You must learn hunting areas in a way that absorbs into your mind, not plagiarize someone else’s hard work. You got this!
We are about mid-season as of the day of this writing. I hope your season is coming together and maybe even you’ve notched some tags! Good luck guys, as always, thanks for the read!