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Deer is one of the hardest animals to hunt, which is why bagging a whitetail is even more rewarding. Building your deer hunting skillset requires practice, patience, and technique. If you’re a beginner hunter and want to bag your first deer, these 10 deer hunting tips can help you get off to a great start.
Deer Hunting Tips
Understand Your Prey
Deer are shy and wary animals and spend most of their time in small herds. They examine their surroundings as they tentatively graze on shrubs and grass and stick together for protection.
They are quick to alert to danger and just as fast at responding to it. They react by running away and seeking cover from the imminent threat, usually fleeing to wide-open spaces where they can assess danger levels.
Deer also have incredible hearing and detect frequencies higher than that experienced by humans. So, even the slightest movements that could cause a branch’s snap or rustling leaves could alert the deer to your presence.
However, it is the deer’s heightened sense of smell that is their primary defense system. They can detect danger from up to several hundred yards away. This is because they have around 297 million olfactory receptors, while humans only have 5 million.
When it comes to vision, deer only have 20/100 vision. As their eyes are on the sides of the head, they have a 60° blind spot behind them. They also have poor color perception for reds, oranges, and greens, which allows you to camouflage yourself effectively, even while wearing your blaze orange safety vest.
Choose the Right Gear
Before choosing your specific weapon, check your area’s hunting regulations. This includes what weapon type is allowed and when you are allowed to use it. The majority of states have laws restricting particular types of firearms during certain parts of the deer hunt season.
Two main firearms are usually used for deer hunting: rifles and shotguns. Rifles have two basic styles: the stalker and long-range. The long-range are used to shoot deer from hundreds of yards away, and have pinpoint accuracy. The two most common types are 30.06, or the 30-30. Stalker rifles are lighter weapons, meaning they are easier to carry when on a long hunt. Most rifle hunters prefer .243, or 7mm, which can shoot a deer from up to 150 yards away.
For shorter-range shots, 10-, 12-, and 16 gauge shotguns are ideal. They are used for those who want to take shots from up to 75 yards or less.
Depending on your state, you may be legally required to wear a certain amount of blaze orange apparel, usually around 400 in². This is used as a safety measure so other hunters can see you.
Get a Hunting License
In any state, you must obtain a hunting license. They may differ from state to state, so research your state’s regulations. You can’t use your license in multiple states - if you are planning on crossing state borders to go hunting, purchase a separate license.
To know more about the different state requirements, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website. Select the state you plan to hunt in and find out the type of license required.
Scout Your Hunting Location
Before you head out on your hunting trip, scout the best hunting location. Deer thrive on the produce between the breaks in terrain and vegetation. The best feeding locations where you will most likely spot a deer are:
- Where cedar and hardwood trees meet
- Where CRP and cedar trees meet
- Where young timber and mature timber meet
- Where timber and standing crops meet
Other areas frequented by deer are crossings and pinch points, where the forest narrows, and there are fewer obstacles in the path. These are the perfect locations to set up your hunting blind, as they tend to funnel the deer toward you, giving you the perfect vantage point to take a shot.
You can use trail cameras that film these locations when you are off scouting for other potential hunting spots. If you find a promising spot where deer have frequented, you can place the camera there and wait for a response. You can choose heat or motion detector cameras that will alert you when a deer has brushed past the device, allowing you to head back to the location and track them down.
Use Scent Control
Because deer have such a highly developed sense of smell, you will need to conceal your scent so they can detect you. There are different methods of scent control you can try, including:
1. Scent Free Clothing
- Use scent-free washing detergents.
- Let clothes air dry outside, so they pick up natural smells rather than dryer scents.
- Spray your clothes and hunting equipment with scent-killing spray.
2. Control Your Body Scent
- Use scent-free body wash, shampoo, and conditioner.
- Dry yourself with an odorless towel.
3. Mask your Scent
- Spray yourself with scent-killing spray before you enter the forest.
- Wear gloves to avoid touching trees and branches with your bare hands - deer will be able to sense your scent on anything you have touched.
You should also carry your hunting clothes with you in a sealed Ziploc bag and change into them in your hunting blind. This avoids contaminating your gear with perspiration.
Conceal Your Location
To avoid being detected by deer, ensure you use a ground blind on your hunt. There will be times in the day where you will need to wait patiently for a deer to approach. However, if you are in plain sight, they won’t do so. Ground blinds are perfect concealment shelters that reduce your chance of animal detection. They are typically designed in a camouflage style. You can ensure the design matches your hunting terrain by brushing in with local branches and shrubs.
Many deer hunting locations also allow tree stands. Either open or enclosed, they are platforms that are secured to trees to elevate hunters and give them a better view while concealing themselves from deer.
Use the Wind to Your Advantage
Wind direction is something you need to consider when hunting deer because of how many olfactory receptors deer have; they can pick up even the faintest odors. To use the wind to your advantage, position yourself downwind. This gives you more time to prepare your shot and conceal your scent from the deer.
Arrive Before Dawn, Leave After Dark
Spending the whole day hunting increases your chances of success. During darkness, deer feel the safest out in the open. They are usually found near bush edges, as deer come out of thick forestry to feed in the open.
Arriving before dawn allows you to locate deer before they are active. Ensure that you scout deer bedding areas to take advantage of pre-dawn deer hunting.
Take a First Aid Kit
In any hunt, a first aid kit is essential. Ensure you have bandages, band-aids, antibiotic cream, and latex gloves in case of an emergency. No matter what the injury is, be it minor or major, your first aid kit essentials will reduce the severity of the injury, preventing infection.
See Related Article: Why Carrying Medical Kits is Very Important
Take the Ethical Shot
To be a responsible deer hunter, you need to ensure you take the ethical shot. This means the quickest and cleanest way of shooting to prevent prolonged pain and suffering.
To kill the deer in one single shot is also the most ethical responsibility of a hunter, with the most effective and painless locations being the brain or the heart and lungs.
Preparation and Practice Are Crucial for a Successful Deer Hunt
Use these deer hunting tips to give you the knowledge needed to conduct a safe, ethical, and legal hunt. From following state license requirements to understanding the behavior of deer, you’ll be able to improve your skills and bring home the trophy.