What is the role of luck in hunting?  I just read an interesting article about the “law of averages” in hunting.  Go hunting enough times and you’ll reap the rewards of your persistence, right?

Well, I know quite a few folks who have spent countless hours freezing their tails off in a deer stand with nothing impressive (at least in the antler category) to show for it.  Then again, we all know somebody who can seemingly run a climber up a light pole in a parking lot and bring home the bacon (fortunately I’ve had a few years that people would lump me in the latter category).

One of my favorite sayings is that “luck happens where preparation meets opportunity”.  I’d like to say that I can create for myself a certain amount of “luck” by keeping in as close a tune as possible to the animals that I am hunting and by taking every necessary (notice the word necessary)  precaution before, during, and after each trip afield.  This encompasses everything from practicing from your treestand in your backyard with the exact setup (down to the facemask, gloves, and outfits you’ll be wearing) you will be using during the hunting season to not trying to force a honeyhole set-up until the conditions are prime to making sure your shooting lanes are trimmed adequately but not so heavy that deer realize something is out of place.

Tip-toeing naked from your house’s front door to your hunting vehicle to avoid getting any scent getting on your hunting underwear is not necessary.  It may make you feel more confident (which may in fact improve other things you do), but I’ve been learning some things about scent control that lends pretty strong evidence to what I’ve long thought to be true.  Pay attention to the wind, then hunt (not to be mistaken for the products of ScentLok or Scentblocker or whatever).  Oh wait, I’m getting off track… another subject for another time.

So I still haven’t addressed the law of averages…  A wise man once said that only a fool does the same thing over and over again, yet expects a different result.  Does heading for the same block of woods 39 times over the course of a hunting season to set in the same exact treestand constitute doing the same thing over and over again.  I dare say it does.  But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Well, some hunters only have 1 spot to hunt and in that case you just have to make the best out of a less-than-optimal deal, but the truth is that the very best hunt you will get out of a stand is your first.

That being said, I’m of the school of thought that if something fails 2 or 3 times in a row, it’s probably going to fail a 4th or a 5th time too.  Now I realize that hunters have unique tools at their disposal these days that may indicate that a buck is only visiting an area in daylight every 10 or 12 days and it may seem like a repetitious game plan is the way to go, but one thing my research has shown me is that big deer are creatures of habit.  They do the same thing day after day after day until something changes – either a hunter disturbs their routine, a food source dries up and they have to switch their dietary focus, or does start to smell good.

If you’re counting on being in a treestand during the 1 hour each month when a shooter buck comes by that particular tree, then I hope you’ve got a good book to pass the time.  EVERY big buck I’ve ever tracked as part of my research projects has a discernible pattern that if unraveled (a HUGE caveat), would put that deer in harm’s way on a weekly if not almost daily basis.  Yes, during daylight hours.  Now he might not be in danger on your hunting property, but he’s exposing himself somewhere.

My dad was forced into just such a situation last year when a stud 8 point in the 140″ range made an appearance every 8 or 10 days for nearly the entire season.  Unfortunately, he never got trail pictures of the deer at any other spot to establish a more consistent pattern and spent 2 months saying “if I’d only been there yesterday!”.  A real frustrating thing that I’m sure most hunters have dealt with.

Is hunting just luck or is there a “law of averages” that shakes out in the end?  There’s not a real clear answer to that question because there are still hunters out there on each end of an extreme spectrum.  Guys that have no business graduating from the Boy Scouts, yet manage to drag a trophy buck out of the woods every couple of seasons.  Guys that do everything by the book, lay seemingly unthwartable plans, only to eat tag soup every December.

I still think the phrase “I’d rather be lucky than good” sometimes has enormous benefits to the lucky.

Thankfully there are things we can do to tip the scale in our favor.  Things like preparing for every situation before they happen, hunting where big bucks are known to live (there is no excuse banging your head against a wall trying to shoot a buck of your standards that isn’t there with all the technology that is readily available today), and being out in the woods giving it a honest try as often as you can.  When we do all those things as best we know how, hopefully you’ll fall out somewhere in the middle with a mix of ridiculously frustrating occurrences of bad luck and heaven-sent blessings of good luck.

Dad, I think maybe that big buck won’t be quite so lucky this fall.