Headin' Outdoors with Scott Staats

While out in the woods the past 50 years, I’ve learned a few things about hunting and other less important things. I’ll see if I can remember what they are, and I make no promises.

No. 1. Hunters enjoy sitting around the campfire telling stories of days past when they sat around camp telling stories.

No. 2. Deer and elk are evolving to read signs and stay behind those that read No Hunting and No Trespassing.

No. 3. Some hunters are devolving so they can’t read the above-mentioned signs, let alone read tracks, trails, rubs, etc.

No. 4. Some hunters would rather say they went hunting than actually go hunting.

No. 5. Deer watch you carefully when you eat an apple or other crunchy foods, such as a granola bar. When you take a bite and start crunching, they move in the dry leaves, knowing full well that you couldn’t hear a freight train go by at 50 paces. In this manner, a herd of 20 trophy bucks can pass you by without you hearing a sound.

No. 6. Squirrels love messing around with hunters. They like playing tricks such as breaking branches and tossing pinecones to keep you skittish and make you think the woods is alive with creatures. Then they simply laugh to themselves in silent chatter, sometimes in noisy chatter, to scare off the deer and elk.

No. 7. A fairly high percentage of hunters like to remain in camp and show off their new gear to anyone who happens by.

No. 8. Dogs don’t always point at their intended quarry. They may also get excited over critters such as skunks, chickens or female dogs.

No. 9. You can be so scared that you actually run out of your shoes or leave your hat hanging in mid-air like in the cartoons. However, the source of this fear usually turns out to be the squirrel.

No. 10. When you leave camp, the animals often seek shelter there. I recall a turkey hunt in Wyoming, when two of us walked several miles and hunted hard, seeing nothing. When we arrived back in camp, our buddy had his turkey as well as a big you-know-what eating grin. As he sat in camp against a big ponderosa, a turkey flew to a branch above him.

No. 11. When a hunter says one thing, you can bet he really means another. For example, when he says he walked 10 miles that day, what he really means is he walked a quarter-mile from camp, laid down against the first log he found, and fell asleep.

No. 12. When he says he spotted that monster buck about a mile away and put the sneak to him, got within 155 yards until he saw a cougar stalking in from the northwest and the chase was on, what he really means is he didn’t see a thing.

No. 13. Game wardens have an endless bag of tricks to reach into, including decoys of just about every animal on the planet. I know; I’ve been on several decoy operations.

No. 14. Game wardens always show up when you least expect it. I recall one instance, 27 years ago, on my very first elk hunt on the edge of a remote wilderness area in Wyoming. Just after shooting my first bull, I saw a guy walking up to the animal before I even got to it. Turned out he was a game warden and I was his first field check.

No. 15. Sometimes all that expensive gear can’t bring you success. A state trooper friend of mine went bear hunting and bought a $500 rifle, spent weeks scouting and even tore some cartilage in his knee in the process of all this preparation. He waited patiently for three hours during opening day and finally got out his thermos of hot chocolate and donut just as a 400-500 pound bear came into sight. By the time he reached for his expensive new rifle, the bear turned tail and disappeared; another example of cops and donuts.

No. 16. Food in your tent can attract unwanted critters, such as raccoons, mice, bears and other hunters.

No. 17. The old saying “It’s always coldest before the dawn” holds true especially when hunting. I recall many times sitting on the edge of a canyon waiting for the sun to break over the rim. The 10 or 15 minutes before it does is always the coldest, with all four cheeks ending up chapped.

No. 18. The more people in your group, the less reliable everyone becomes and the less likely any of you will ever meet at any predetermined rendezvous.

No. 19. It’s probably easier for terrorists to enter our country than for us to enter the hard plastic packaging that entombs our new gear when it arrives.

No. 20. It’s time to get out of the woods when those things making all that buzzing noise turn out to be mosquitoes and not hummingbirds, or when that growling isn’t coming from your empty stomach.

No. 21. I prefer hunting alone, except when I get an elk. I can recall at least three bull elk I’ve killed while hunting solo. I hauled one of them out in one trip, with a sled and a backpack, in about a foot of snow. Another hunt was much warmer, with yellow jackets buzzing all around me while I gutted and quartered the elk. Being allergic to bees, I thought this would be the last hunt of my life if I got stung. However, I survived to tell the story around the campfire.

No. 22. Some hunters need to think outside the truck.

No. 23. While out in the woods one day, I came across a steaming pile of bear scat, which finally answered “Yes” to that age-old question.

And finally, No. 24. As I get older, it’s hard to remember 25 of anything.

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