Sitting motionless in a deer stand or ground blind for hours on end can get old fast. Thinking back to my first hunt, I remember how the day seemed to just drag on and boredom took its toll. It doesn’t have to be this way. Ideally, of course, we would harvest a mature buck within the first two hours of the day, pack up and bring back our trophy like a victorious and conquering warrior.
However, the reality is that hunts can be boring. Even the most passionate whitetail hunter can lose interest when the deer aren’t moving and the wait seems endless. But there’s no reason to let boredom ruin your hunt. With a little creativity and preparation, you can make the most of every moment in the stand. Here are 17 ideas to keep you entertained and engaged on those slow hunting days.
With a little creativity, you can stay engaged and entertained in the deer stand when the action is slow. Here are the most important tips to remember:
- Bring items like books, snacks, and your camera to occupy your time.
- Mentally rehearse hunting scenarios and visualize making the perfect shot when the moment comes.
- Use smartphone apps, write in a hunting journal, or play brain games to pass time quickly.
- Stay physically active and energized by stretching, scouting, practicing with gear, and more.
- Share the experience with a friend or family member to make the wait more fun.
Ways to Stay Entertained During Slow Hunts
Practice essential knots
One of the best ways to pass time quietly in the deer stand is to practice tying important hunting knots. Pack some paracord in your bag so you can sharpen your skills tying knots like the bowline and clove hitch.
Knot tying helps develop muscle memory so these knots become second nature when the pressure is on in the field. Try timing yourself to tie knots faster and more efficiently. Or challenge yourself by attempting knots with one hand or your eyes closed.
Hunters rely on specific knots for securing tree stands, dragging deer, making temporary repairs, attaching game bags, and much more. So the stand is a perfect place to drill the fundamentals. With enough practice, your fingers will instinctively tie the right knot for any situation. You’ll be grateful for the effort one day when inclement weather makes tying difficult but you need to act quickly.
Mentally rehearse hunting scenarios
Visualize potential shot opportunities and how you would react. Picture yourself drawing your bow or firearm smoothly, acquiring your target, and making an accurate, ethical shot. Going through every step in your mind will help with buck fever and instill the right instincts when the moment arrives.
Even if the deer are scarce, you can likely find birds, squirrels and other critters to photograph. Digiscope or use your smartphone to capture unique behaviors and close-ups you’d never see otherwise. This is a great way to appreciate nature’s beauty.
Bring a book or magazine to read
Pick titles related to hunting, nature, or your other interests. An engaging novel can pass the time quickly when you get bored (I really like reading on a kindle when I’m in the woods–they’re light, thin and quiet). Just be sure to look up frequently to scan for deer. Don’t get too engrossed in the latest issue of your favorite hunting magazine that you miss a nice buck walking by your tree stand.
Sharpen your skills at identifying birds by sight and sound. See how many species you can spot from your treestand or blind. This is an ideal low-impact pastime for the stand that keeps your eyes scanning the woods.
Bring snacks for a quick energy boost
Granola bars, mixed nuts, dried fruit and jerky are healthy, portable options. But avoid noisy, crinkly wrappers that could alert deer. Unwrap before heading to your setup.
Creative Ways to Pass the Time
Daydream or play mental games
Let your mind wander as you stare into the timber. Meditate on a personal goal, relive a fond memory, or visualize an upcoming dream hunt. You can also play memory games or brainteasers in your head.
Use smartphone games or apps
Be sure to turn off all sounds and notifications first! Phone games like solitaire and Sudoku are great for passing long waits in the stand. Just beware of draining your battery life.
Listen to podcasts or audiobooks
Download engaging shows or books to make the hours fly by. Pop in a single earbud and keep the volume low so you can still hear approaching game.
Note: I wouldn’t listen to music, as it could prevent you from hearing deer activity. It’s a lot easier to hear sounds in between words spoken than music.
Write in a hunting journal
Document thoughts from the day, new tactics to try, deer observations, and more in a pocket notebook. This helps the time go faster while creating a keepsake record of your hunts.
Take “selfies” in full hunting gear
Don’t roll your eyes; this isn’t just for the Zoomers. Be honest, you know you want to show off your hunting prestige to your friends and family. Capture your best camo look or the view from your stand to share on social media later. But stay alert, keeping your eyes peeled for deer instead of glued to the phone screen.
Other Tips to Beat Boredom
Explore the surroundings
Bring a friend or hunting partner
Having company makes the wait much more enjoyable. You can chat, share stories, and debate tactics. Just avoid loud talking or distractions.
Check gear and reload shells
Verify your equipment is in working order. Reload shells or, if bowhunting, practice attaching your release to pass time while remaining productive.
Plan future hunts
Think through preparations needed for an upcoming trip. Make a packing list, book travel, upgrade gear, and more. Dreaming about future hunts is a fun distraction.
Exercise or stretch
Do seated stretches inside the stand when possible. Climbing into and out of your stand also provides good exercise. This works better if you are in a ground blind so your movement is less noticeable.
Scout and pull memory cards
Take a break from sitting in a tree stand and go check cameras or walk property edges to scout late-morning. Pull SD cards from trail cams.
Don’t let boredom ruin your hunt. With this wide range of activities, you’ll be engaged and alert during every minute of the wait. When that trophy buck finally steps out, you’ll be prepared to make the most of the opportunity.
What are some quiet games or activities I can do in the deer stand?
There are plenty of things you can do to pass the time that don’t require making noise. Sketching in a small notebook is a great way to chronicle the sights from your stand. You could also work on knot tying using some paracord, or play a memory game in your head like trying to name all 50 state capitals. Packing a deck of cards is another quiet option—you can play solitaire or just practice shuffling and card tricks. The key is picking activities that won’t spook nearby deer.
Can I bring a thermos of coffee or hot cocoa to drink?
Definitely—just make sure your beverages are in a well-sealed thermos instead of an open cup. The scent of coffee or cocoa wafting through the air could alert deer. But sipping a hot drink from a thermos is a great way to warm up and pass the time on colder hunts. Bring it already prepared so you don’t have to mix or pour it in the field.
What kind of snacks travel well and make the least noise?
Look for softer snacks that won’t make a racket whenever you reach into your pack. Some good options are cereal bars, dried fruit, soft granola bars, and sandwiches or wraps made with pliable bread or tortillas. Things like chips, hard granola, and mixed nuts tend to be loud and crunchy. Remove any noisy wrappers before heading to your stand too.
Should I carry my smartphone for games/apps even if there’s no signal?
Yes, a smartphone can still provide entertainment even without reception. Download some apps in advance that don’t require internet access. Puzzle and word games work well. Just silence your phone completely and monitor your battery level so it doesn’t die at a crucial moment in the hunt. Bring an extra battery pack if hunting for extended periods.
What are some unscented grooming tasks or equipment maintenance I can do?
You can trim and file your nails, floss your teeth, tighten any loose screws on your gear, wipe down your knife or gun with an unscented cloth, tie a paracord bracelet, oil small squeaky hinges, and more. Avoid strongly scented items like nail polish or perfume. Focus on silent tasks that get you hunting-ready.