Notes from a First Timer from this Weekend.....


OK, so some of you have been following my posts over the last several months. I'm a first time hunter who got into it because my son begged me to take him for years. He's 11 now. My wife wasn't comfortable with him shooting yet, so he's just "observing" with me this year. I'm sure he's not thrilled about it, but he did great.

For some background, my family has farmed for a zillion years and we own one piece of property that has just a couple acres of timber on one corner that's bordered by decent size patches of timber all along it. Much of which is county owned and is theoretically off limits to hunters.

So last December I walked all around the property and found trails and rubs and scat all over the place. So I hung a couple cameras and moved them around a handful of times throughout the past year. I've got scads of pictures of does and bucks, and I even bumped a couple bucks while scouting out there in about September. Got a two man tree stand and had a buddy who's been hunting his whole life help me choose a spot and hang it late in the summer.

The property is shaped like an "L" with the short leg of the "L" being a nice clearing. It was beans this year. So our stand is facing west and overlooks the clearing, but also allows me to cover the funnel that comes through the trees. This piece is about 10 minutes from my Dad's house/farm and it's about an hour from where I live.

We're in Illinois, so shotgun season is 11/17 thru 11/19 and again on Thurs 11/30 - Sun 12/3. We basically have 7 hunting days. So I took off Friday and went out by myself. I just wanted to get through one session by myself before I had to worry about having a kid with me. Again, I've never done this before.

The first day the high was around 40 with the wind probably at 8-10 mph out of the SW, which is perfect for carrying my scent away from where the deer would be most comfortable. I got into my stand about a half-hour before sunrise. I had swapped my camera cards on the way by so I had about six weeks worth of material to look over Friday night.

About 30 minutes in, I quickly realized that my rubber boots were not the right tool for the job. This situation would have to be fixed and soon. I had planned on sitting all day if I could, but I was seeing ZERO movement and my toes started to hurt. So I sat from about 6am to 10am when it started to drizzle pretty nicely. It's about a 10 minute walk from my stand to my truck where I parked that day, so I took off and headed into the next decent size town to go boot shopping. Had a coupon in my email, so I was able to solve that problem for about $40. Not too shabby.

Went to my Dad's, ate a simple lunch, re-packed some of my gear, chatted a bit and was back in the stand in my shiny new boots by about 2pm, which left me a little over 3 hours shooting time. Did not see a deer. Few coyotes, a dozen squirrels or so, but nothing that I was looking for. I enjoyed the solitude and the beauty of the woods, like I expected to. No deer showing up was a bummer, but I knew it could go that way. So I headed home for the night.

The original plan was to grab my son, get up super early and drive straight to the stand on Saturday morning to hunt all day. However, there was an 85% chance of rain from 2am to 2pm, and it would be blowing right in our faces. I told him I didn't think that was ideal for his first outing, so we waited and got to the stand at about 1:30pm. The actual temp was about 40, but we had a 20mph wind right in our faces. It was not pleasant. You couldn't hear a thing, and I'm not sure that any number of layers could keep that kind of cold out of your clothes. The wind let up a bit around 4 or 4:15. Right around 4:50 or so (with about 20 minutes shooting time left), two does came strolling through the clearing, exactly from the LAST direction that I would have expected to see them come in from. They were mature, and one stood broadside to me for several seconds, but they were about 120 yards out. I wasn't real comfortable at that distance, and by the time I had debated in my head a bit, they ambled off away from us. By this point, we were both kinda shivering so we let them get well out of sight and packed out.

My son had a great time and was super excited about going back out. He's grown kind of attached to one particular buck that we've got pictures of and he was disappointed to not see him, but he understands that it's not a video game and or a hunting TV show and sometimes what you want to happen, doesn't. I think he was thrilled and he said thank you several times.

We stayed at my Dad's Saturday night. I had some laundry difficulties with our hunting clothes, so I had to stay up way later than I wanted to. My son is an "active" sleeper, and I actually had a little stomach trouble in the night, so I barely slept at all. We knew it was going to be frigid cold on Sunday morning. Temp dropped to 23, with a wind chill of 11 and the wind blowing in our faces again, so it was going to be brutal. I was not convinced that our gear was going to get us through this morning with a smile. But we went out anyway because he has a basketball game this evening, so the morning was all we had. Got to the stand about 45 minutes before sunrise and climbed up. At first it wasn't too bad, but the cold catches up to you quickly.

We only lasted about an hour and didn't see a single thing moving. He was really trying to be tough and he was reluctant to go, but we were both really cold and he said "I think it's time", so we swapped the camera cards and headed out. He said he was disappointed in himself for not lasting longer, but I told him I was cold too, and I thought he did well for his first time out.

So I have questions. Lots actually.

I'm kind of regretting not cutting in a ground blind so we'd have an option in the rain. However, this piece is pretty flat. I'm a little concerned about shooting without being elevated. I could maybe get it setup in the low corner so I'd have some dirt in my favor, but I'm only a half mile or so from other people's structures and a road.

What is consensus on when you're unwilling to sit in a tree stand? Rain? What wind chill is your limit?

Gear wise, I had a spandexy type base layer thing, a pair of military fatigue type pants, an insulated denim shirt, then a pair of insulated bibs and a coat on. He had a similar base layer, a pair of insulated bibs and coat, then a full insulated pair of overalls a size bigger. We both had on thick wool socks and thinsulated boots. We both had spandexy type masks and our basic orange stocking caps on, which are required. We were cold as hell, but we're already pretty bulky. If we went thicker, we'd both look like the little brother on "A Christmas Story".... Thoughts / advice on this? Do I have the wrong gear? Are my expectations too high?

So I think we both had a great time, but I'm a little disappointed that there wasn't more traffic. Looking back on the cards that ran from Friday morning to Sunday morning, there was one scrawny doe on the trails that were pretty popular in the past couple months. She came through about 11pm one night. That was it.

Anyway, I'd appreciated any feedback that any of you may have on any of this brain dump. I can't go Thursday, but I can try this all again for 3 days the weekend after next. Battling the weather seems like it's what it's all about.
I would get a roomy, two man ground blind. They are very easy to move if need be. They hide movement very well, and protect from a lot of wind and rain. Could even put one of those small propane heaters in it. Over dress. When you are sitting still, it is always colder. Be cognizant of your son’s comfort - you dont want him getting so miserable he starts dreading it. An all day hunt is a stretch for most experienced hunters. Try to make it enjoyable. If you see deer several times in the same place- move your stand/blind closer. And enjoy time with your son - time flies.
For warm clothes, focus on layers. I prefer merino wool over all other fabrics. Avoid anything cotton, first and foremost. Cotton will not keep you warm if it gets wet (including sweat).

I use merino long johns, then a wool shirt, then a wool sweater. If it’s really cold I will wear a down shirt/jacket in between the wool shirt and sweater. An outer breathable shell to block the wind will allow sweat moisture out but keep rain and wind out.

Wool socks with insulated boots on the feet and a warm hat or hood to keep heat from escaping from your head. For young kids a sleeping bag or blanket to get under in the stand can be a lifesaver.
An important gear for me is a giant backpack where all of my outer clothes are stored during the walk in as well as the first 1/2 to an hour on stand. I hunt from the ground mostly but do have lot's of trees to stop a bullet. I hunt mostly in the woods; it's way more exciting and shots are ten to thirty yards so bullets hardly ever go more than thirty yards. And yes, still, everyone needs to be concerned about where those bullets will stop. If the ground is too open, elevated blinds would help.

A ground blind or two is a good thing to have for bad weather days in your earlier seasons. For good weather days a few sticks/small logs against a blowdown in the spring for the fall hunt is all you need.

The day after the shotgun season go out with your son and scout to determine where the deer spent their time during the hunting season days. Look for a spot where active trails (active, not necessarily heavily used cow path looking trails) merge that are easy to get to. Walk those trails and look for stand locations for different winds. And if you haven't already, post pictures of your land and a topo on this site after hunting seasons wind down. Plenty of people here will help you identify stand sites to check out.

Read books, someone or many of us will make a list for you of current books that will jumpstart your journey.

And of course--RELAX. It gets better and better the longer you do it. As you seem to have gotten it already, success is not measured solely by a full game pole.
Oh, and handwarmer pouches-I’ve had days when there were 6 of them stashed in various places under my clothes. Double sided tape is your friend.

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I use Toastie Toes for warming my toes on cold days. They have adhesive backing so they stick to your socks. I've also stuck them on my chest arms, and legs to stay warm on exceptionally cold days.
There is no better feeling in the world than being warm on a cold day!
I went from avid hunter to a guide and pack mule for my young son and daughter and I have learned a thing or two about trying to keep kids comfortable, one of the better projects I have invested into recently was I picked up a 3 person Bone Collector pop up blind last year on clearance for under $100 and this past summer I built a 6' high platform for it so for the price of a good ladder stand I have an elevated blind capable of keeping us dry and protected from the wind, conceals fidgety kids, largely contains our scent and when it gets cold, I have on more than one occasion packed in a sleeping bag for the kids to use as a blanket. Plus, since we are completely concealed camo clothing isn't a must, regular winter gear is fine to use...come to think of it, this alone has probably paid for itself 3X over! haha.
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Thank you all for all the suggestions. I'm intrigued by the idea of just building a basic platform for mounting a simple blind. Did you set the posts in footings or anything, or is it just sitting there with the sticks on the ground?

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You don't need any footings under the posts because their purpose is to support weight and your structure won't be that heavy. But I'd not advise building one one day to hunt the next day. Too much commotion and scents around.
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To the need to look into an elevated shooting house or elevated ground blind. This will give you the height you want and protection from the elements. Come November in the mid-west you could see really warm weather to very never know. I built my own shooting houses out of mostly reclaimed wood and they have been well worth the effort. They keep you out of the rain and wind AND are easy to heat as well making you far more likely to stay on stand.

As far as clothing goes.....I have a similar set-up like you do. A polyester/spandex type base, then a heavy insulated layer, then my scent lock clothes and then my heavy insulated gore-tex outer layer. 2 layers of socks with insulated rubber boots. The main thing is keeping dry. Wet doesn't insulate as well. Freezing temps and a stiff breeze will drive many of us from an open stand. I hate to be cold and once your feet get cold there is no turning back...... Wind proof and water proof outer layer are a must and even then exposed skin can only handle so much.

As for the number of deer seen. I don't know the property but if it is an intense ag area the harvesting of the crops can have a HUGE impact on deer movement. Ag crops - especially corn can provide cover for deer and make them moving around more likely. Once that cover is gone it can grossly limit daylight movements. Things like acorns in that wood lot can also play a part where once the acorns are gone the deer may move on.
I think the clothes are covered. Also, crop harvests can limit sightings if the reason they were in that spot was the food and cover they provided. Option to fix that is a nearby food plot next year. As far as rain and wind, i seldom see much movement in heavy rain and or high wind. Deer just hunker down and wait for it to pass. Can b great hunting right after a cold front passes through though. All day stand with a kid is asking a lot, you want them to enjoy the experience and 2-3 hours at a time is probably the limit for most kids.
Very good advice above. Ditto the heater in some kind of enclosed blind. I use the Coleman Black Cat but I think it’s obsolete. You can find them on eBay though. Buddy heaters are good, but overkill for my temps. Might not be for yours. Good luck and thanks for taking your boy hunting. It will pay dividends !
A couple things I have learned about keeping feet warm. They are the part of me that gets cold the fastest. I use a unscented type of antiperspirant spray before I put my socks, keeps feet from sweating and getting cold. Another is to place some type of mat or foam pad on the stand floor to keep my feet off the metal expanded steel. Both of these have helped greatly.
OK, so I spent yet a little more money picked up some stuff. Most simply, I picked up some of the handwarmer packets to throw in boots and gloves. The next gun weekend is 12/1, so I don't have much faith in the weather forecasts from this far away, but we'll see.

I was also talking with a coworker who's hunted for years and got a couple last week (I think one bow, one shotgun). Anyway, for the weather stuff, he suggested one of the mounted blinds that go around the tree stand. I found one locally and picked one up. It's the type where it's got an upper frame that mounts to the tree above your stand and it drapes around the sides with zip out windows on the sides and front. So I guess I'm going to head up there this weekend to mount it so it's there to settle for a most of a week before I hunt again.

Thanks again for all your suggestions. I'll keep watching, so keep slinging them at me!
So here's a shot of the area I'm hunting. My family owns it and leases it for farming. The clearing had beans this year and they're already out. My stand is about where the pin is and faces pretty much straight west. There's tons of timber to the south and west, but I drew the property lines on there, which you can see means that we don't own much with cover.

The piece straight south is owned by the county and is theoretically off limits to hunters. To the west and off the SW corner, it's privately owned and I know of at least one person hunting out there because I ran into her last weekend.

Running through the middle of the finger is a gulley that's about 25' below the grade of the clearing. There's a small stream running south that's fed by the drain tile from the field.

I'd be interested in anyone's observations about this setup. Thanks again!


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A couple things I have learned about keeping feet warm. They are the part of me that gets cold the fastest. I use a unscented type of antiperspirant spray before I put my socks, keeps feet from sweating and getting cold. Another is to place some type of mat or foam pad on the stand floor to keep my feet off the metal expanded steel. Both of these have helped greatly.

The technique I use to keep feet warm is -

1st layer- thin nylon or polypropylene socks.

2nd layer- thin plastic bag.

3rd layer - 100% wool sock.

Boot layer - Military surplus Mickey Mouse boots.

Those boots are not the greatest for long walks, but that layering system has worked every time so far !


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One of my favorite things for keeping warm is my hand muff. Besides feet your hands are your other extremity most likely to get unbearably cold. Get you and the kiddo a nice camo hand muff and stick a hand warmer pouch in there, and you'll find yourself pulling your hands out from time to time because they are getting too warm. One of the main benefits is that you can then wear very thin gloves, which I find useful when handling your gun or bow.
A Dewalt heated camo jacket (CPO Outlet) has become an essential part of my cold weather gear. A very high quality piece of clothing for the price, and you can use your cordless drill batteries to stay warm. Add a gaiter, handwarmers, insulated pants and a few foot warmers in the bottom of your shoes and you are ready for some pretty bitter weather with a lot less layers of sweaters needed.
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With regards to not wanting to shoot from the ground because of other buildings being within a half mile or so...

I'd encourage you to go out to your hunting spot and get a four-foot stake in the ground. Pace off 150 - 200 yards, then aim at the top of the stake and see what you see behind and beyond the target. Most likely you'll find you're pointing at the ground way in front of anything that's a half mile away.

Yes, slugs can and often do glance off the ground, but I've only heard of them going about 100 yards further after that (not sure how, or if, the guy who made that claim measured it, but that's what they said). Considering how rapidly slugs drop after 200 yards, it's hard for me to see them going much further after losing energy digging a furrow in the ground.

A half-mile is 880 yards. You'll obviously have to make your own decision, but I don't think you have much to worry about hunting from the ground. If nothing else, just don't take a shot if the deer is directly in line with something else (even if it's 700+ yards further out...)

Regarding where to hunt your property, I'm no expert hunter (have only gone out three years now). But from the experience I've had on an uncannily-similar piece of ground, I'd set up right at the northern edge of that "hump" of trees toward the southeast corner. That would seem to give you better visibility along both edges than you seem to have at the current location.

Of course, other factors that don't show in the map (like wind and where you've noticed deer sign) will play into where the best places will be, but that's what I'd do.

Hopefully your farmer will plant corn next year. Harvested cornfields seem much more attractive to deer than beans.