ADVICE FROM THE FIELD

Major Travis Lytton

7th Component Maintenance Squadron Commander at Dyess AFB, TX

Major Lytton’s dad introduced him to hunting at an early age. Today, he hunts every weekend from September through April.

 

 

WHY YOU HUNT

Hunting gets me outdoors and gives me the chance to sit and enjoy the world without any background noise other than the wildlife. It’s become an adventure that takes me to places I may have never gone. There are animals all over the world that are on my bucket list, and my wife and I have started targeting these locations for vacations/hunting trips.   

 

HOW YOU PREP

Land management: I do a lot of scouting. I hang trail cameras months in advance, check new stand locations and make sure current stands are still stable and safe for use. A few weeks prior to the season, I try to stay out of my hunting area if possible.

Shooting practice: Prior to the season, I like to shoot as many rounds as possible, not just to ensure that my gun is properly sighted, but to eliminate any chances of trigger jerks or equipment malfunctions and to be very comfortable with my equipment. For bow hunting, I try to shoot about 100 arrows each week for several months prior to the start of the season. You can’t shoot your bow enough!

Calling: I practice calling months in advance of the season opener. I typically keep my duck and goose calls in my truck, and bring my turkey calls when that season gets closer.

WHAT YOU EAT

I always carry food and water with me because I never know how long I’ll be out. Any time I’ve forgotten food or water, I’ve always regretted it. Granola bars or crackers always work well since they are packaged and light.

RECOMMENDED GEAR OR GADGETS

My go-to for optics is Vortex; Leupold also offers a good discount for the military (as many companies do). I prefer Bushnell Trophy Cam HDs for my trail cameras. I use HuntStand to map out my deer lease because it shows wind directions, stand locations, etc. Typically, you get what you pay for with gear.

 

KEYS TO SUCCESS

Hunt the wind, and be patient! No matter how well you think you’ve concealed your scent, you can’t beat the wind. Don’t go into a stand when the wind is bad. You might have a huge buck there daily, but you have to wait until the wind is right or you’ll bump him and he may never come back. Be patient. Once you find a good spot to hunt that you know holds animals, you have to have patience and continue to hunt. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up, especially when the weather gets tough.  

CLOSE CALLS

One time, several teenagers were sent into a field to drive deer out, bearing shotguns that they shouldn’t have been allowed to carry. Once the deer got up, they began shooting at it while we were on the edge of the field in the direct path. We hugged the dirt while they fired six to ten shots, hitting trees and knocking branches off directly behind us. Another time, while rabbit hunting, a rabbit ran between two hunters. One hunter shot and hit the other hunter, who fortunately survived with “minor” injuries. 

On both occasions, novice hunters were to blame. Novice hunters always make you nervous because they tend to get focused on a target and the gun follows. They may not check the area in their shot path or check for others and call out if a shot should not happen. When hunting in groups, there should always be safety briefings that cover distances between hunters, shot paths, no-shoot zones, what can and can’t be shot, and how and when to call out safety words like “knock it off,” “don’t shoot,” or “hen.”  In addition, hunters should always have an “exit strategy,” which means knowing what tree to duck behind or ditch to dive into if it turns into a Wild West shootout.

PLAYING IT SAFE

Don’t take shots you’re not sure of! Too many times, an excited hunter gets tunnel vision. No animal is worth shooting someone. Stay quiet and try to observe what the seasoned hunters are doing. Watch your muzzle at all times and treat the gun like it’s loaded. If you’re not about to shoot, then your gun should always be unloaded. As soon as the hunt is over, remove any shells. Don’t carry loaded firearms up into your stand either. Load them after you get in and unload them before you get out. If you are unsure of something then ask. It might seem like a stupid question, but it just might save your life.