Sighting the 5 P’s of becoming a successful hunter


To become a successful hunter, one must realize that keeping things simple can be extremely effective. Hunting, no matter the species or location, is a complex and unpredictable sport that challenges people of all skill levels.  

It’s true––using new products and technologies available in the hunting industry can help hunters bag more game. However, to the disbelief of these companies, the introduction of a new product will not turn an average hunter into a professional overnight. Rather, using a simplistic approach to the sport will help make drastic improvements to your hunting success.  

The following five tips are a compilation from myself and two other avid hunters, junior nursing major CJ Peters and senior wildlife and fisheries science major Trent Walrod. These tips are critical to every hunter and should remain in their repertoire at all times.

Preparation: Without a doubt, preparation should be a top priority for every hunter. No matter where you are afield, being prepared for anything is an absolute must. 

Familiarizing yourself with the land and the wildlife that call it home is extremely important. This crucial step in your hunting preparation should be completed well before the hunt.  

Additionally, knowing the weather forecast is vital, especially in South Dakota, as conditions can change and turn downright miserable very quickly. Being comfortable will allow you to spend more time out hunting and less time back in the truck.

Peters discussed the importance of scouting prior to the hunt.  

“Scouting for your target species is a key part of preparing for a hunting trip,” Peters said. “In waterfowl hunting, knowing where the birds are landing will give you an idea of where to set up.”

Persistence: Whether it’s a one-day pheasant hunt, or a season-long quest to harvest a mature white-tailed deer, you are bound to fail one time or another. Hunting is rarely predictable, and often times even the best game plans will fail.

If you are serious about the sport, you probably have your fair share of hunts that didn’t go as planned. Hunting has its highs and lows, and like anything else, you must work through those lows. Remember, just when you think things can’t go any worse, the trophy of a lifetime may show up in front of you.

“You have to stay persistent in order to have success,” Walrod said.  

Walrod exercised persistence when he took a trip last fall to hunt grouse in northwest South Dakota.  

“There’s not much for cover out there, so you need to walk many miles to find the birds,” Walrod said.  

Putting in extra effort and hunting all day paid off and he harvested his limit of birds.

Practice: There are two main aspects of practice in hunting. 

The first, and more obvious, is to practice with your equipment before going out. Know not only your gear’s limitations, but yours as well. If you don’t feel comfortable shooting a weapon at certain distances, don’t take those shots at wild game.  

The second form of practice puts successful hunters far above the rest. As you begin your hunt, think through every possible encounter with your target. Practice going through each of these scenarios in your head, so when a small window of opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready.

“When I’m bow hunting deer, I like to range the distances of where I think deer will walk by,” Walrod said. “I then practice drawing my bow and make sure nothing is in the way so I know I can take those shots.”

Patience: Hunting is a waiting game. Other than targeting upland game species, hunting is typically most effective when taking a passive approach — waiting for the game to come to you.  

Sometimes the wait can be short, but often it is not, so bring something to pass the time.  Snacks, books and even flashcards for an upcoming test are great ways to keep yourself occupied during down time.

“You have to wait for the perfect shot opportunity when deer hunting,” Walrod said.  “Allowing the deer to get close and well within your range increases your success rate greatly.”

Private land: The Brookings area and its surrounding counties have ample public land available to hunt. While these lands have good habitats with strong game populations, they are open to everyone. You may need to get to your spot hours in advance to “claim” your area, but this doesn’t stop others from hunting the same area and ruining your hunt.  

A simple solution to this common problem is to gain hunting privileges on private land. Briggs Library has county plat books for rent, which are critical when searching for private hunting access. Plat books break down property boundaries and often have the landowner’s name, address and phone number listed.

“There is a ton of pressure on public land in Brookings County, so hunting private land really gets you away from the crowds,” Peters said. “Some of my best waterfowl hunts have taken place on private land.” 

He also said he’s had great conversations with landowners over the years, and some have led to additional private land hunting opportunities.