Deer Hunting Lessons Learned with Tim Cool

WTR Tim | Deer Hunting Lessons


Once an opportunity comes, you got to go on muscle memory, put the pins where you want it, and let go of the trigger. There are massive lessons learned that cultivate a hunter mindset. Owner of Prodigy Outdoors, Tim Cool tells the story of a shot and a loss which is an example of the stories we don’t hear about on social media – the lesson learned from a miss, a lost buck due to a bad hit. This is bow hunting and stuff happens – a twig, a last-second move, a shaky hand, and we have all been there. Tim bravely shares the reality of bow hunting and the advantage of using a water source as a back barrier to funnel bucks to your stand. On top of that, he reveals how he came up with hunting a crosswind strategy and when to start planning your next epic hunting.

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Deer Hunting Lessons Learned with Tim Cool

We’re heading out to Iowa. We’re going to meet up with a good friend, Tim Cool. Tim is an alumnus of Whitetail Rendezvous. I wanted to catch up with him and ask him a couple of questions. Some people have been asking about answering the ten questions of how to find a place to hunt. We’ll do that in the second part. In the first part, I wanted to see what was up with Prodigy Outdoors, where Tim does some hunting filming. He’s also started a company with CBD extracts. Tim, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Bruce. I appreciate our friendship. We’ve been always communicating on and off throughout the year. It’s good to be back on here with you. Thanks a lot for having me.

I’m sorry I didn’t get out there for turkey hunting. I’m not a turkey hunter. I have a lot of people like, “Come out for a few days. We’ll go shoot some turkeys.” I haven’t done that. I had a guy invite me to Alabama where they can kill five turkeys. He said, “You’ve got to come down here next year.” I’ve never killed a turkey, called in a turkey and done anything with a turkey. I am a turkey, that’s for sure.

That is okay. I have gone to a lot of hunting trips for turkeys. It is fun, but as somebody who likes to hunt big game, I think about it now before I take the trip to go too far because that money can be well-spent on a big game hunt or towards a big game animal type of hunt, whether it’s preference points. Even if you go on a three-day of the turkey-hunting trip for four or five hours away, it’s still going to run you $300 to $500 by the time it’s all said and done. I look at it as, “I can use that money for preference points or save up for September to go mule deer hunting or whatever.” A little trick or a tip that I’ve learned is talking to some other guys that are big game hunters. They say, “If you think about, it’s just a turkey.” Not to deter anybody from going on a turkey hunting trip, but it’s something that I think about now before I go too far.

There’s got to be some good hunting near you. I’ve got a friend up in Castana. He’s always inviting me out there and said, “I’ll put you up and everything. It’s $500. You could kill a turkey.” I’m going, “That’s eleven hours just to drive there or fly there.” I agree exactly to what you’re seeing on the turkey hunt. Let’s recap what happened. Talk about what’s going on in your hunting life.

I was humbled last season because, in 2017, I shot a buck close to home. I spent a lot of time scouting various public lands and had some nice bucks picked out and got some new private land. What had happened was, I had a slow October. My dad came and went to Missouri to hunt a farm that we have permission to hunt. It’s about four hours away. It was public land. I got set up on the pinch point on a river. I had a buck come in. I hit him low. He ran about 100 yards, turned around and faced the tree after I shot him. I’m like, “That’s not good.” I’m watching him in the binoculars. He turned around after a minute or two. I have the footage. He ran off again. I thought, “For sure, there was no way I didn’t put a good shot on him.” It was about a seven-yard shot. Talking to a lot of people, it’s not a shot that anybody practices. I had the pin set. If I was shooting straight on the ground, I would have hit him perfectly right through the heart. With that angle, you have to hit him a lot higher than you would ever think.

I talk to people all the time. I don’t post online about hitting a deer bad but I’ll never lie about it. It was a learning experience for me and the dozens of people that I’ve talked to about it since then. There was good blood but I never found the deer. I called the tracker down there. He described to me what happened. I said, “You’re right.” He goes, “Let me guess. You had good blood for 100 yards and no deer, no bed, nothing, never to be seen again.” I said, “Yeah.” He crossed a deep river, about waist high on a person, and went on to some private land. I couldn’t get ahold of the landowners. It was a tough pill to swallow. I came home and kept at it pretty hard. In the one piece of property that I have permission to hunt and another guy has permission to hunt, he shot one of the big eights that I was hunting. In another piece I was hunting, another guy next door shot a big 160 class 10 that I was hunting. Before too long, it’s almost December. I never finished out the season with a deer and a buck down. I’m not a jealous guy. I’m happy for both those hunters that killed those deer. Every dog has his day. I know what I had to work on. That was those tougher shots. It could happen to anybody. It has happened to a lot of people, you just don’t hear about it.

People aren’t going to post on the internet that they missed a deer. They should but they don’t have any pictures. They don’t have anything. They let it go and move on. I know one of my Pope & Young bull that we later found, I hit him high. It was in the evening. It was 40 yards, good shot. We tracked him, the it started raining. I was absolutely screwed. I was pissed off at myself. I should have waited. He was broadside, 40 yards, very comfortable. Talking to enough guys who archery hunt, it does happen. What you have to take away is, “Did I practice? Did I know the shot was good? Did I do everything I could to put a good shot on it?” If the answer is yes, then you move on. It’s still a hard pill to swallow, no question about it.

Making a bad shot doesn’t make you a bad shooter. Click To Tweet

The state of mind that puts you in, it’s a state of shock. You think it will never go away. The mindset that happens when you’ve essentially failed at what you’ve tried to do and what you wait for all year. You had to learn to combat that and put that aside, “I made a bad shot but I’m not a bad shooter.” You have to do some mantra stuff and get yourself out of that mental state to get past of hitting a deer bad or an elk bad. That’s a state of mind that I haven’t felt too many times. It was quite interesting to go through that rollercoaster for the next week or two to try to feel comfortable again sitting in the tree stand.

People don’t post their mistakes or failures. Some people do. I had a good session with Dan Infalt. We talked about exactly that. There isn’t anything on social media that says, “Look at me.” There’s nothing to say. People say, “I’m not going to tell anybody about that.” That’s human nature. You hit the nail on the head when you said we fail. We didn’t make the killing shot. Did you say it was 70 yards out of a tree stand?

It was seven yards. Four climbing sticks up, approximately eighteen to twenty feet, and five or six or seven steps from the base of the tree. It’s almost a straight down shot. You have to hit him just below the back probably four inches down from the top of the back and get down to catch both lungs. I went for a heart shot. At that angle, the arrows probably nicked along. I had the footage of the impact. It didn’t enter through the chest cavity. It went down along the side of one side of the chest cavity. When he turned around like that and looked, he was pissed off. I’ll never forget that. It was a foggy night. When he turned around like that, that’s not good. I stood there and looked at what happened. There was nothing I could do to get a follow-up shot that far.

WTR Tim | Deer Hunting LessonsI have since moved past it. I know what to work on. It’s not a habitual thing. If you play this game long enough, it’s going to happen. You can talk to the best, even professional level archers that I have been fortunate enough to meet. They said the same thing. For example, when they’re on the line shooting, even a tournament where their livelihoods are on the line, they may shoot a ten and the guy next to him shoot an X and they lose by one point. It’s the same feeling. It’s doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, a bad shot or a bad hunter. When you’re hunting with a bow, the odds are stacked against you. You’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt.

Because you ripped his ribcage, he thought somehow a ninja Buckhead hit him in the ribs. I almost guarantee it because he looked back and he’s pissed like, “Who busted me?” There’s no deer there. “I don’t understand what’s going on.” He can’t hear you. He can’t smell you. He can’t see you. All of a sudden, he gets pounded in the ribs, which he has been before. He’d been hammered there before. He’s going, “What was that all about? Where is that guy? I’m going to walk over and kick him.”

Not necessarily in this exact situation because I had never been to this public land piece before. That’s why stands set up is so critical. Not knowing exactly where the deer are going to walk, you may run into that on public land when you do a hang and hunt set up. That’s why it’s so critical the stand location so that you do get that 15 to 25-yard shot. They’re in front of you and they’re quartering away. He came in and every other deer came in from a different direction. I’d love to show somebody the tactic and the mental or technique that I had, but he came in like I wanted him to. He hugged the edge of the river so close that when he got to the tree, the tree was his crossing point. He was almost hypothetically underneath the tree. It’s something for me to take away when I go back, to move that stand back a little bit and make sure I get that fifteen to twenty-yard shot. That’s a better shot angle. That’s what it came down to is a shot angle. I did have my error as well.

There are a lot of lessons learned from everybody. Straight down shots, I miss them.

I’ve never taken one. I’m an arborist. I work in the forestry field, the Arbor Culture Field. The leading cause of accidents is complacency. There could have been some complacency with that. It’s not a shot I normally practice. It’s not a shot I have normally taken. Maybe I was a little overconfident. Maybe I should have let him pass. Hindsight 20/20, that is too close. It’s not a good shot angle. Anyone that’s done it can tell you that it does work, but it also does have consequences sometimes.

When you're hunting with a bow, the odds are stacked against you. You got to take everything with a grain of salt. Click To Tweet

It’s lessons learned. That’s what this show is about. You get people saying, “This is what happened to me.” You’ve got to figure it out. Sometimes people don’t figure out where their shot opportunities are going to be when they set up. I don’t know if this will help you or not but saying, “If he comes directly under the tree, what’s my angle? Where do I have to shoot because he’s closer than I think he is?” That’s true. It’s because of the angle. If he’s seven feet, it’s only five feet. You have to think before the opportunity comes. Once the opportunity comes, you’ve got to go on muscle memory, put the pins where you want it and let go of the trigger. The thinking time and figuring out time is over. You’ve got to get in the zone and go for it. That’s my two cents. You’re talking about DIY. We’re going to talk about how to find a place to hunt. Strategically, when you hang and hunt, I call it run and gun, how do you decide where to set your stand?

At that time of the year during the rut, especially a public land or an unknown piece, I’m going to get where I know deer are going to come through. Especially when I go on public land or out of state, I’m not targeting a specific deer. I’m targeting whatever animal I deemed to be a quality class animal. In Missouri, I was aiming at a 130 class or better. This buck was right on the button. It’s probably a 135-class deer. Water is one of the best sources for funneling a deer through. River bottoms and stuff like that where you can get in between two bigger pieces of timber. You may be sitting there for several hours during the daylight at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00. A deer will come through there, 100% chance. In that case, it was an open area and surrounded by a thick area. Those are nice because you can see a long way. In this case, it was primarily soft maple trees. I like that because I was in an area where I could adjust if I needed to adjust my setup. I did adjust. That was the second tree I hung the stand in. I was seeing some deer off in that direction. I got a little too close right on top of them.

You have to hunt on a broad scale. There wasn’t that much sign in there. There were rubs and stuff. You have to know what deer are going to do. Deer are going to follow those thin areas. There was big timber around, but this was a thinner area. I like to get far away. I know guys and different people have different theories about hunting close to parking lots. The access that I had here, this was nine-tenths of a mile. I traced it on accident. I walked through an open cornfield to a hedgerow straight down. It was where several things met and the river took a sharp turn. I had a couple of field edges. A couple of hedgerows meet in there. It’s a spot that I won’t tell anybody where it is.

WTR Tim | Deer Hunting LessonsThe other thing is boat access and private property access to public land. The key is getting a boat, a canoe type of thing, a Jon boat or a huge boat. At least to get to the place, I’ve got some spots where I have boat access. I don’t plan on bringing the whole deer out. I’ll probably quarter them out because it’s so remote. I try to get away from people. I grew up in the Eastern part of the country so I’m used to hearing horns, dogs, leaf blowers, guns and constant noise. I try to find a place where I don’t have to hear that. It’s why I moved to Iowa. I don’t enjoy listening to the sounds. I look for those remote places. I have a little wanderlust or adventure mindset, I want to see what’s around the next bend. I find these places that a lot of people may be hunting, but they may be hunting from a different angle. I try to find that angle that the average person is not thinking of.

That’s what you have to do is think outside the box. You have to remember to always keep the wind in your face while you’re doing that. Still, the box has to have the wind to their advantage. It was an interesting setup there where I hung a crosswind. I used the river as a natural barrier so the wind is blowing at a crosswind from my left to right, but it’s blowing over back behind me, over the river. The bucks generally walk in that river edge with the wind in their face. They can’t smell me because I’m close enough to the river to where they’re not behind me or downwind. They can’t get downwind. That’s a foolproof setup. It’s trying to find that place that gets you there.

How did you figure out the strategy? How did it all come together?

The first thing came together when I was probably eighteen to twenty. I had this place back in New York. I started killing some nice two and a half-year-old bucks. That was a big accomplishment. Even my adult peers and local people weren’t killing 110, 125-inch deer. I was every year. I was getting deer on a trail camera but not seeing them. I was constantly trying to figure out, “How is this deer getting to this trail camera right in front of my tree stand and I’m not seeing them?” I call it hunting at crosswind. Let’s say you’re in a corner of a field, which I hunt a lot of times, especially in the morning. The way I would hunt it in the morning is different than I would hunt it in the evening. I would have my wind blowing out into the field in the morning, facing in the woods. I may be in the woods 20, 30, 40, 50 yards, depending on the terrain, the vegetation cover, the trails and the sign. I’ve got my wind blowing at an angle from the direction the deer are coming from. If they went out into the field and walked back in there or several yards behind me, they would win me. My set cone is angling back to my left, from my right to my left shoulder. The deer are coming at me from a 9:00 or 10:00 position. If I’m facing into the timber and that’s noon, the wind is blowing back about 7:00 or 8:00 or 6:00. They’re coming from the 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00 area. That seems to be foolproof.

How about in the afternoon?

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The afternoons are different. I’ve noticed in my experience that the wind has to be, in most cases, blowing towards the woods a little bit. Let’s say you have a square chunk of timber. On one end, there’s a hedgerow that comes out. I may move up or down that hedgerow so that I can have my wind blowing back into the timber. It’s skirting their travel path and it’s not in line with their travel path. It’s hard to maybe explain over the phone. Having a map available would be much easier. I’ve had big bucks on camera. I’ve hunted with the wind blowing into the field and different things like that. I noticed that the wind couldn’t be blowing out from the woods to the field. You’re set up on the edge of the woods. It’s tough for them to get out in front of you and get several deer in front of you to make the shot or have a deer get in front of you and not wind you. It’s situational as far as that goes.

Maybe we need to do a webinar on the Deer Hunting Institute coming up. If somebody wants to get hold of you and say, “Tim, I like what you said. I’ve got some comments. I want to share my miss with you,” how would they do that?

I’m easy to find on Facebook, Tim Cool. Prodigy Outdoors is my hunting videos. Prodigy Outdoors Hemp is my CBD products that I came out with. I’m easy to get ahold of. It’s any of those three channels on Facebook or Instagram. I always answer. I love talking to people. I’ve got several people that I may never meet that live across the country. I look forward to talking about getting hunting spots. Facebook is a powerful tool for that. I enjoy it a lot.

When do you start planning your hunts?

WTR Tim | Deer Hunting Lessons


Out of state, I try to plan them in the wintertime. When I think out of state, maybe mule deer, early season whitetail. If it’s mule deer, elk and antelope, you’re going to want to start planning in December and January because that’s when these states start opening up their draw processes. Just because you want to go antelope or mule deer hunting, it may not mean that you should go the year that you come up with that idea. Do a little more research and buy yourself a little time by planning for the next year because you never know what information you may come across or what people you may meet that can direct you a little farther. I’ve gone on a whim-type of trips before. I’ve had good success. I want to go on a cruise deer hunt, but the information and stuff like that, I don’t have a solid basis to go all the way to Arizona and drive a full day’s drive. It’s the sooner, the better.

Whitetail deer hunts, you can start probably planning since most are over the counter. When I think about whitetail deer out of state, I think early September and rut. I start on the early season, maybe around May or June. It’s a quick easy process to find a piece of public and scout aerially. There are certain things you want to key in on especially going early season. The primary thing is food. If you’re headed out West, you want to look for that green vegetation, alfalfa and early successional stuff. I’ve gone to Nebraska and thought that we would have a good hunt, but I didn’t go far enough West. I didn’t get the alfalfa fields with the pivots and thin timber where it’s huntable. I went to South Eastern Nebraska, which we’ll probably talk about even more because that’s been a great blessing from some people I’ve met out there. I was hunting salad corn and tree lines. My friend, Cody, and I went out there. We barely saw deer because there was nowhere to see them. The beans were brown. They weren’t eating the beans. There’s this maze of corn like it’s coined.

Another big thing is to make sure that where you’re going is going to have what you need to be successful. In the early season, that’s going to be the green crops, the alfalfa, the CPRP and some water and stuff like that. We had water and we had public land. There was no reason for them to leave the corn. There wasn’t anywhere to see them either. The October that most guys go out, that should be easy for planning. If you hunt in public land, a lot of guys go on guided hunts and stuff. Stick to the basics, the ridges, the pinch points, and the inside corners. Buy your time because a lot of spots are as good as any. I’m guilty of trying to find that unicorn needle in a haystack spot where I may have been better off parking it for a while and letting things play out.

You go to a place you’ve never hunted before, spend a day and spend hours of long-distance scouting. You get up on a ridge, get up on a high point, get someplace you can see, get your glass out and watch morning and night, at least one morning and one night to see that specific pivot, that alfalfa, beans, corn, whatever’s growing there. If they’re not coming out there, find someplace that there are deer. A lot of people make that mistake. They go, “This looks good,” and there’s no fresh sign.” They wasted three days of their hunt and said, “We should have been over here.” Find a deer from a long distance first, like elk. The best elkers I know, they’ll leave camp early in the morning, 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning, hike for a couple of hours. The sunrise is coming up and hitting the basins. They can see if there are any elk in that base. They’ll be there and they’ll see them. They’ll say, “Game on.” If they’re not in that basin, they repeat the process. They’ll go, “There are none in the morning. That means they’re not going to come out at night, I’m going to go over and find a different basin.” There’s more to this hunting thing than, “I’m going to call a bull in and figure it out or I’m going to waylay a buck coming out to a field.” Tim Cool, thank you so much for joining us on this segment of Whitetail Rendezvous.

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About Tim Cool

WTR Tim | Deer Hunting LessonsFounder & Owner Tim has had a vision since college without much money or direction. Through keeping that dream alive Prodigy Outdoors has blossomed into what it has become today.


Age: 27

Location: born New York lives Iowa

Occupation: Forestry

Favorite Species: Whitetail

Most memorable hunt: Shooting two P & Y in the same hour. Most looking forward to Wyoming this fall for deer.

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