My #1 improvement?
That's easy. This is going to sound stupid, but it's true. My #1 improvement was finding a piece of property to hunt that actually had deer on it. I frittered years of hunting on land that had very few deer.
Once I found a property with a decent population, I was instantly successful.
When there were deer on the property in any sort of numbers, I either got a deer or got the chance to pass on deer multiple times. If numbers where low, I ate tag soup.
You could probably keep me off my property all year. Let me go on opening day of rifle season, and I'd probably have a deer by the end of the week.
My #2 improvement?
Getting time in the field. With my first wife, Satan, our agreement was that I would hunt one half-day per week. After the separation, I got to hunt one full day every two weeks, because I had my young sons for visitation on alternate weekends and Ohio still did not allow Sunday Hunting.
When I got the farm in Kentucky, I got to hunt two days every weekend and I could take my sons to the farm. They were also old enough to start accompanying me into the field. All told, my total time in the field went up by 400 %.
My #3 improvement?
Year-round scouting and continuity of hunting venue. In a few instances, I found good property, but lost access to it after a 1 or 2 seasons due to things beyond my control. Then I was left trolling about for another place to hunt, and often times I had to settle for lousy land, just to be out.
I've been on the same plot of ground going into my 8th season on the farm. It's all additive. The first season, I really did not have much of a clue. I was going off a topo and an aerial. Now I have the doe groups named. I have a few individuals named.
Having my own property, I could finally stop using climbing stands and erect permanent ladders. It really improves your chances if you can quietly climb up a ladder and sit down. No muss, no fuss, no noise, no sweat.
My #4 improvement?
Getting stupid ideas out of my head. I could have had a nice doe with a bow the first weekend I went bowhunting. I passed on her, waiting for a buck. Ditto for years 1-4.
Q: So shaman, where's the scent control? Where's the magic buck lure? Where's the UV Killer spray!
A: See #4.
Yes, I have to admit that I go through a lot of sodium bicarbonate in a year, but I was getting deer back when I wore dry-clean only wool that had mothball smell and I smoked a pipe. If the wind isn't with you, you're screwed. Period.
I've brought in bucks with grunting. I've had deer come to a decoy. I've laid down scent trails, scent bombs, scent this , scent that. I have baited. I have rattled. I have stalked. I have done drives. I have done everything you can think of except hunted with dogs-- it just ain't legal in my states.