These days there’s an app for everything related to deer hunting and if you own a smartphone, the world is literally at your fingertips. Want to know the scent cone profile at your stand location? There’s an app for that. Want to order a new grunt call and have it delivered to your doorstep? There’s a website for that. Want trail camera pictures sent directly to your phone? Done. Want to know the most productive times to hunt based on moon phase? Easy as pie!
With smartphones quickly taking over our everyday lives, it has become the norm to see people’s faces buried in them more than ever before. Next time you walk into a mall, stop and take count of how many people have their eyes glued to a phone. Look around next time you are waiting in line at the airport and count how many people are completely oblivious to the world around them. We humans get bored very easily and tend to rely on technology to help pass the time so it’s with little doubt that us hunters are following suit. We post long hours in a tree stand each fall pursuing that trophy buck and to help ease the “downtime” we employ a little smartphone therapy.
Deer Are Sneaky Creatures
I would like you to take a moment and reflect on your past hunting seasons, specifically in regards to quick encounters and sightings of whitetail deer. Think about how many deer swiftly moved past your stand and in a matter or seconds they were gone. How many times did you catch a glimpse of a deer moving through a thick area that you would have never seen if you hadn’t been looking in that EXACT spot at that exact same time? How many instances have you had a deer get to within 30 yards, without ever seeing or hearing their approach, completely catching you off-guard?
Here’s something else that will boggle your mind. These are just the times that you ACTUALLY witnessed those events take place. Take it one step further and think about how many deer you DIDN’T see because you weren’t looking in the right spot at the right time. Who really knows how many deer slip past you throughout the season and leave undetected; It’s almost scary to think about!
What I’m trying to highlight is that whitetail deer, especially mature whitetail bucks are very elusive creatures and are experts at evading hunters. I mean, it’s practically their job! And no, I’m not here to bash people who scroll their news feeds on the regular because I to, am a smartphone whore. My goal is to create awareness and I, my friend, am here to say that you are missing opportunities at deer because of your smartphone. Don’t believe me? I have the numbers to prove it!
If It Were A Snake…
Before I hit you with a bunch of facts and numbers from a recent survey, I wanted to highlight a few experiences of my own from this past hunting season which helped influence the writing of this article.
November 18th I found myself perched in a tree and by 9:30 am I had yet to see a deer. It was a dead calm day and boredom started to set in so I decided to get out the ole smartphone and kill some time. I figured I would be able to hear anything approach because of how quiet it was so I started scrolling the news feed. After 5 minutes of reading status updates and liking photos on Instagram, I decided to look up and out of nowhere, a doe was 25 yards away walking right towards me. Five seconds later she walked right into my scent cone and killed any chance of me reaching for my bow because she was already on alert. Moments later she whirled around and trotted off in the opposite direction, leaving me shaking my head.
My girlfriend’s brother, Steve, was heading into an area of public ground to hunt in Kansas during our week trip and he came up on another hunter in a tree stand. By the time Steve saw him he was within 40 yards of his tree stand with nothing but open air between the two of them. The hunter did not hear his footsteps nor did he catch his movement. Steve waited for him to look up so he could acknowledge him and waive to say sorry but after 30 seconds, the hunter was still oblivious. Steve walked away and left the area without ever being detected.
The evening after I killed My 2015 Kansas Buck, I decided to head back to the same area in an attempt to fill my doe tag. Once again, this was a very calm evening so the leaves were crunching with each step I took. I dropped down into a river bottom and came up the other side still searching for the ideal setup, so I pushed further into the timber. About 10 yards past the river bottom I saw a hunter sitting on a stool 50 yards away next to a tree. I paused for a few seconds to see if he would acknowledge my presence but to no avail. Do you want to know why he didn’t look up? He was looking down at his phone! I turned around, went back across the river bank and turned to see if he had seen me but his head was still buried in his phone. I could have been a 170 walking in for crying out loud!
The Numbers Don’t Lie
In addition to my own experiences, I wanted to gather factual data on a larger scale so I created a survey and posted it on www.whitetailwatch.com, www.archerytalk.com, and Facebook so that I could reach a wide audience of whitetail hunters across the U.S. A total of 260 people completed the survey which was more than my expected goal of 100. I asked a range of questions pertaining to hunting but there were two questions I was particularly interested in gathering the results.
On average, what amount of time do you spend on your phone during 3 hours of hunting?
I took the averages of each time period. For example, the 15-30 mins category I rounded to 22.5 mins and divided by 180 mins to come up with the percentage of time spent on the phone during a 3-hour hunt. Here is what it came up with based on 260 completed surveys:
- 53% of people spend 4% of their hunt on a phone, or 7.5 mins in a 3-hour window.
- 32% of people spend 12.5% of their hunt on a phone, or 22.5 mins in a 3-hour window.
- 10.5% of people spend 25% of their hunt on a phone, or 45 mins in a 3-hour window.
- 4% of people spend 50% of their hunt on a phone, or 90 mins in a 3-hour window.
- 0.5% of people spend 83% of their hunt on a phone, or 2.5 hours in a 3-hour window.
Do you feel like you missed shot opportunities at deer because you were looking at your phone?
This one surprised me because of the amount of time people spend on their phones but only 6% of the group stated they missed shot opportunities due to being on their phone. The problem with this question is that you would actually have to witness the missed opportunity in order to answer yes. The people who answered no either never saw it happen, even though it did or it never happened in the first place. I guess we will never know.
A Growing Trend
You might be thinking to yourself, “So what, Adam! Those three scenarios could have been just pure coincidence and that survey you created sucked!” Well, maybe that’s true but I can guarantee you that those three scenarios and the amount of distraction from a phone did not occur 10-15 years ago. Am I right? Your smartphone is not helping you kill deer.
Think about how short-lived the encounters were when Steve and I walked up on the hunters on their phones. These encounters lasted less than a minute from the time they could have seen us until the time we were gone. Typical deer sightings aren’t much different; they can be very short lived which also proved true in my first scenario with the doe that got down wind of me.
When you step back and actually think about it, the minutes on your phone start to add up which could be costing you shot opportunities at deer. I’m not saying that being on your cell phone necessarily is a bad thing but just remember the next time you pull out that phone for a mere 5 minutes, 6 booners could have walked behind you! Just sayin’!
Want to kill more deer? Stay off your damn smartphone while you’re in the woods.