In certain areas of the world, you don’t grow up without knowing how to hunt. Wild deer hunts have been going on for ages.
As a national pass time, deer hunting is what ties us to Native American heritage and the early settlers, while also testing our human strength in the wild.
If you have found yourself thinking about the noble art of deer hunting, then you’ve come to the right place.
This guide goes through every aspect of deer hunting, right down to the camouflage boots you’ll need. This guide can help anyone hoping to hunt this next deer season.
Deer Hunting Guide – Getting Started
So why do people hunt deer? It may just seem natural to certain folks who have grown up with hunting as a family tradition, but it’s much more than that. Deer hunts are about survival, learning the laws of nature, and marksmanship.
Few Reasons Why We Hunt Deer
There are also a lot of benefits to becoming a deer hunter:
- Learn hunting skills
- Develop yourself as a hunter and provider
- Spend time away from everything
- Fresh, organic, lean meat
- Cultivate survival skills
- Become a better marksman
- Create a tradition
This guide comes with stories from experienced hunters who know with confidence that deer hunting is about time and effort more than it is about the weapon you choose (but we go over that too).
There are a few things that you’ll need to do before you ever get out to the wild.
License and Certification
You can’t legally hunt deer until you have a hunting license. Every state has its own wildlife agency that handles licenses and hunting privileges, as well as the start and end of seasons.
You want to make sure that you check with your state on whether you’re allowed to hunt. In some places, like George, you’ll need to be a resident of the state and be of a certain age. However, the rules also change if you’re hunting on your own land for deer.
Learn About Types of Deer
According to bowhunting360, There are three types of deer in North America:
- White-tailed deer
- Mule deer
- Black-tailed deer
While you don’t need to know every detail about each species, it’s always a good idea to know how each of these species reacts to being hunted.
White-tailed deer have a specific mating season where the bucks are easier to catch during a “rut.” This is when they are chasing after does.
Pick Your Weapon
Some hunters feel more comfortable with a rifle, while others like a bow and arrow. The skill involved in firing either is very different.
Most deer hunters choose the rifle because it’s the most accessible, and you can head to the range to practice with a gun to get better. With a bow and arrow, you might have to train for many months before you land a shot.
When choosing a deer rifle, you should take the budget and size into consideration. You want a rifle that will let you kill a deer quickly and fits the shooter’s size.
If your shooter can’t shoot the gun well, then you should use a different gun. While it does take practice, some rifles are just more difficult to hold and shoot than others.
Want to try out potential rifles? Head to the gun shop. You will need to get familiar with lots of different rifles and ammo anyway. If you like shopping online, you still should go to the store to test out rifles and weights.
A few of the top gun models on the low-cost side include:
- Winchester Model 70
- Weatherby Vanguard
- Remington Model 700
- Ruger American Rifle
- Savage Trophy Hunter XP
Once you pick out a weapon, then you’ll need to ammo cartridges. If you don’t know much about guns, that’s okay. There’s plenty of information online about choosing the best rifle for you. Need more information on deer hunting rifles? Check out this quick guide:
After you get a rifle and learn about its caliber, then you should practice shooting at stationary targets that are about 25 yards away. You want to practice on placing groups on the target that are all hitting the same position.
As you get more handy with your gun, you’ll learn how to steady your hand and take the arm, allowing you to move the target to greater distances.
Hunter’s Safety Course
Once you’ve got your rifle and skills required to hunt more efficiently, the next step is to become check your certification and licensing.
Regulations are different from state to state, but in most cases, you’ll need to take a hunter’s safety course and pass a test in order to head out on the hunt.
There are some requirements to take this course:
- Age requirement (varies from state to state, typically 13 to 17 years of age minimum)
- Take all 4 hours of the course
- Pass the exam
- Pay any fees to become certified and licensed
If you can’t do a four-hour course, then there are other ways to acquire permits. You can take on a hunter apprenticeship that will allow you to learn alongside a certified hunter. This typically gives you the most knowledge from a professional, but you may need to pay upfront for these courses.
Dressing the Part
You’ve probably been in stores like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops before. These are great places to outfit yourself with gear, but you don’t need to spend that much to get all the supplies needed. Chances are you may even have some of these lying around already.
Here are the basic necessities to get started as a deer hunter:
- Orange hat and vest
- Your gun
- Box of ammunition
- Hunting knife
- Tall rubber gloves (when it’s time to dress your kill)
- Flashlight (great for tracking)
- Warm clothing (good gloves, hat, and flexible jacket)
- Your permits
- The zip tie, ziplock bag, and a pen to tag your game (state laws will vary)
You can find most of these items in deer hunter kits or plain hunting packages, and you probably have some warm clothes already. You may also want to get ear muffs or earplugs if you want to preserve your eardrums after firing your rifle.
Best Places to Hunt Deer
So you got the essentials, and you’ve been practicing with your gun. As a proficient marksman, you’re ready to head out and find a place to hunt deer.
If you are a landowner with plenty of forest areas, then you probably already have an idea of what you’re doing. If not, you will need to head to public hunting regions or become friends with some landowners and local farmers who do have land for hunting.
You never want to hunt on land that you don’t have permission to hunt. This can lead to fines and your arrest. You can build a good relationship with landowners around you just by looking at hunting meetups in your area.
Once you’ve got your location, then you’ll need to find a wooded area where deer and other animals will pass by. You can choose to hunt at the edge of an open field to start.
This is where it’s important to understand scouting and how to find areas around you that draw deer. Some people use tripod stands to help mark deer and track good spots in the wild. However, you’ll increase the cost of your hunting hobby.
At first, it’s just a good idea to get to know the different locations and study where your deer targets like to graze and water. In addition, if you don’t hunt with a stand, you can maintain any position so it’s harder for them to see you.
Your ground location should be on a path that deer roam frequently. You should note the comfort level as you track deer in certain locations.
If you can’t make long shots, then you don’t want to be in an open field. You may want to post up in small areas of the words to minimize your presence.
Hunters also put out certain things to increase their odds of bringing deer in range. These include food plots and salt licks. However, you can only use these during pre-season typically. Once hunting season begins, you’ll need to forego all attractants.
Tracking and Shooting Tips
The first and main thing to remember is that you always want to wait for a deer to turn broadside, which means that they are standing perpendicular to your rifle barrel.
You should be able to see the deer from nose to tail, allowing you to bring your sights on the deer just behind the front shoulder. This shot will land right in the deer’s heart or lungs, causing death.
How to Hunt Like a Pro
Get an elevated treestand and position it on the outer edge of the best cover you find in your hunting area. The key to setting up your stand correctly is to place it so that you have good visibility but are very near to a thick, heavily timbered area that deer will be moving towards. Edges are the perfect way to capture whitetails, and this additional visibility will give you more range to shoot.
When the first day of the season starts, deers will be alerted to your presence. Instead of following the crowd, you’ll want to place your stand downwind of any prime terrain where deer will be focused on moving through.
Instead, pack a lunch and just wait it out. Neighboring hunters will bump deer down the path towards you.
Here are some other important tips for tracking and shooting deer in the wild:
Take Note of Landmarks
Where’s the big tree with the odd-shaped squirrel hole? Where is the water coming from? You want to make sure that you know your location front and back when you head out. You don’t want to get lost while on the hunt.
That’s why it’s important to take a GPS finder if you need to, but otherwise, you can look for distinctive objects on the skyline or create markers for yourself so you know where the good spots are.
How to Follow Blood Trails
Think you missed a shot? Try again. You could look for a blood trail if you know that you may have hit your mark. You’ll need to move quietly as you track, marking each spot of blood with a flag if you are hunting with a party. You can remove these markers later.
Never Give Up on a Trail
When you take your shot, be vigilant of the direction and what you’re looking at. You can call the spot so that if your target leaps away, you know where the start of your blood trail begins. If you know that you hit something, then follow it.
It’s likely that you’ll find it eventually. Even if you have to get on your hands and knees to see it, you should do your best to find your target if they are bleeding.
Don’t Fall for Instant Drop
Deer sometimes instantly drop from being shot, but then they’ll get up and run. You should be prepared to track down your kill if they don’t walk a distance and then drop. You can stay put when the deer instantly drops and then take your second shot to kill.
Don’t Poke Your Kill
First of all, no one touches the deer with a rifle to see if it’s dead. That’s Hollywood. You should use a stone or twig to toss at it instead. The reason we do this is to prevent the animal from getting up and rushing us. If the animal’s eyes are closed, it’s a good sign that it’s actually still alive.
Best Odds of Finding Game
During the hunting season, it’ll be competitive in more populated areas. However, you can find a lot of deer in any heavily forested area near a canyon with no major trails to the bottom.
However, as long as you don’t have to go into the canyon to retrieve the kill, you should be able to get some great game shots in these areas.
Let the Weather Guide You to Your Buck
Wind, rain, cold temperatures, and fog may befall you, but you’ll need to stay strong if you want to catch your prey. No other hunters will be affected by these conditions, so neither should you. The most patient hunters are the ones who bring home bucks year after year.
Here are some weather conditions you should look out for:
You might see a rising cloud of cool, dry air that brings light winds in the distance. You should set it out at your stand or wait in a blind.
This is a good time to track and get lost in your newfound hobby. However, if you do get into some freezing temperatures, you should hold out as long as you can and only switch locations after the sun has melted some frost in the morning.
If you spot wind speeds over 20 mph in your area, then you’ll need to stay downwind to catch your buck. You’ll want to note the wind direction and speed if you can.
With stronger wind speeds, the faster the barometric pressure tends to increase. In this case, you’ll to be out after the wind drifts off especially if it keeps changing directions.
Once you start to feel those droplets, you know that you’re in for a long day, but this is actually a good thing. Rain wipes away your human scent and blends you in with your surroundings.
You should make sure to bring your rain gear. This is what every hunter hopes for as deer can hardly see or smell you when it rains.
However, if there is heavy rain, you should wait it out in a covered blind or head back to camp and watch the radar. When you see it start to shift, then you can head out into the woods. This is another prime time for deer to head out after a rain.
The white cover makes it easy to see deer, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing for your game. However, it is difficult to stay warm if you don’t have the right clothes.
If you notice the forecast calls for heavy snow, then it’s time to pack your gear and your hat. You’ll be missing out on some prime hunting if you don’t go out at these times.
Tracking is also much easier in the snow. You’ll be able to see footfalls and blood trails. The two hours prior to the snowfall and the two hours after it are the best times to hunt.
The main thing you should worry about is dehydration. You’ll need to stock up on water and make sure that you get out there early.
First light and last light are the best times to hunt when temperatures are on the rise. If you post up near a watering hole, you’ll probably encounter lots of deer that also need to hydrate.
Don’t Follow Another Hunter
It’s bad form to hunt close to someone else. In fact, you should think smarter than the hunter beside you. Instead of following him, you can make a big circle and try to catch the deer another way, especially if you think the other hunter is pushing the deer forwards. You should try to stay at least a half mile away from another hunter. It’s also just good safety.
What Makes You a Better Deer Hunter
When you get in the field, you don’t want to spend the day looking up things on your phone or checking out what the manual says.
These field notes are from experienced buck hunters who know what it takes to hunt and how you can be a better deer hunter.
- Don’t put on any fancy cologne or wash with scented soaps during hunting season. Deer are adverse to human odors, and they will be able to smell you. As you designate your hunting clothes, you’ll want to keep these separate. They should have a natural science that’s from leaves, debris, and dirt. You don’t want any unnatural scents to accompany you to the field. Other hunters can smell you, as well.
- If you want to attract a buck, you may start out with doe estrous. While it is a great tool, other hunters will note a buck’s territorial instincts. For example, a buck won’t respond to doe estrous during early October because that’s not the right time for making.
- You’ll want to soak a rag with doe estrous to bring out a buck. You can even mark a path towards your stand.
- Human sweat will give off odors as well. You can bring an odor eliminator with you to your stand so that you can spray yourself down. Pay special attention to your head.
- Need to keep out moisture from your gun? You can just add a piece of electrical tape to the end of the barrel. Your bullet will go through the tape when you’re ready to shoot.
- Take note of the wind and other conditions. You’ll want to make sure that your scent isn’t blowing away from your path. You can also locate a long strip of wood or a bunch of covers that is right in the wind’s path. You can pour some deer scent on these areas, then set up downwind of it to catch your prey.
- You should practice setting up your stand and taking it down before the season. You want to focus on being as quiet as possible. You’ll need these skills when you’re scoping out a nice buck.
- You can use Google maps and aerial photos of your location to scout out heavy timbered areas, cover, and open fields. You’ll want to find places that are near canyons, but where you won’t have to go into the canyon to retrieve your kill.
- Make sure to bring tick repellent. You can douse yourself with this before heading out into the woods. Otherwise, you’re going to have a bad day.
These are some of the basic field notes that hunters feel are their best notes for the season. As always, you’re going to have different notes as you head out into the field. You can always talk to fellow hunters to get more insights.
Remember to Get Lost and Enjoy Yourself
Sometimes you do have to hunt in areas where no one is willing to go. These are areas with a heavy cover where deer will likely go to hide out once humans start to infiltrate their woods.
One study by Penn State showed that white-tailed deer were adept at recognizing human traffic and heading to their respective nesting holes, which were typically deep in cover.
You should try to hunt in locations that are off the beaten track just for the learning experience and to test yourself. There are lots of areas where no one is willing to go where you can set up doe estrous and hide out, waiting for the perfect buck to wander into your hunting pocket.
In these areas, you should just hide out and wait, as you’ll typically see deer before long. If you notice other hunters nearby and you haven’t started tracking anything, then simply find a new spot where you know you’ll get some privacy. This is your time to slip away and focus on your survival and hunting skills.
Other Tips for Professional Deer Hunters
Some things are just learned on your own. One thing that professional hunters often do is make a charcoal mask to hide their shiny human face. Deer have become accustomed to fear humans, so the sight and scent of us are off-putting.
Greasy paints are difficult to remove, but charcoal is simple and cheap. You can pulverize a piece of charcoal from your grill and wipe your face with it in order to disguise yourself for the hunt.
Using Attractants and Plots
According to fieldandstream, You’ll need to get used to setting up deer attractant such as doe estrous. While you can’t Doe estrous is the key ingredient to setting up good buckshot. With the right strategy, you can lure a buck right to you.
You should also use food plots. You can always make the area around you more attractive by adding fertilizers and understanding the plants around you.
Two weeks before opening day, you can start fertilizing areas around you and setting up your food plots. This will train deers to come to stand to find the good stuff. Nitrogen is a great fertilizer, and the urea will bulk up the roots while the foliage should turn an intense green.
Cooking Tips for Deer Game
It truly is a great day when you bring home your kill! These are new lessons in survival where you’ll learn how to skin and dress your kills before cooking them.
You’ll want to skin deers as soon as you can. You don’t want to leave meat on the carcass because it grows tougher by the minute. You should only eat deer meat that has been cut, skinned, wrapped, and refrigerated, aging it for about 10 to 14 days.
Learning How to Skin Your Deer
The best way to learn is by seeing someone else do it:
Tame That Gamey Taste
You may not enjoy deer meat, especially if you don’t cook it the right way. Venison does have a gamey taste, but it gets worse if you don’t take the time to dress your meat properly. However, venison may taste gamier depending on the age of the animal and its diet.
When the gamey taste is strong, then you can spice it up and dress it properly with the following to balance it out:
- Ginger root
- Onion and garlic
- Soy sauce
Stir-frying deer meat is one of the best ways to eat it because hoisin sauce and other Asian ingredients mask the gamey taste so well.
Trim Away the Fat First
Venison fat isn’t like beef fat. You won’t like the way it tastes. If you plan on cooking your kill, then you’ll need to trim away the fat with a sharp knife. You can make soap and suets for birds with deer fat if you’re intent on using every part of the animal.
Marinate Venison to Reduce Gamey Flavor
When in doubt, you should marinate your meat for a few hours. You can use thinner cuts with a marinade, but you may want to use a brine for the thicker cuts. Barbecue sauces are great for marinating venison, especially if you want a smokey flavor.
Hunting deer is about learning the behavior of deer and mastering the outdoors. Safety is also important, so make sure to wear your orange vest at all times.
You want to be able to see and feel the wind, knowing how you can use it to your advantage when you’re in the middle of a rutting season. In addition, tagging your deer is extremely important so don’t forget to mark your kills.