Deer hunting to some is not just a means of getting venison for their family. To some deer hunting is seen as a sport, and the trophy is the mounted head of the kill. For a new hunter, the skill can be a challenge to develop, especially if there isn’t a mentor to teach it to you. My husband and I were both born and raised in the city. Neither of us knew how to do the things we know how to do today. We didn’t even know anyone that could teach us how. We learned by trial and error, and a whole lot of research online. We learned early on that valuable deer hunting tips are hard to come by. All hunters; even veteran hunters know that the learning process is constant and ever changing. Deer hunting is a skill that isn’t like riding a bike, it is more like cooking. There are always ways to refine the skill and make it better. The following deer hunting tips should give you a head start.
- Practice using your equipment:
Don’t go out into the woods and expect to be a perfect shot every time. Especially not the first time you have ever used a gun or bow. Set up a target in your yard to practice on. If you have space I highly recommend placing targets at various distances. The deer will not always be at the same distance from you in the field. As the old saying goes; practice makes perfect. Practicing will not only hone your skill but will also let you know if your equipment needs servicing.
- Clean your equipment regularly:
Clean your gun, and other equipment every time it is used. Never put a rifle away after use if it hasn’t been cleaned. Each time a rifle is shot it leaves a residue of gun powder and metal shavings in the barrel. Leaving this residue in place for a significant amount of time will attract moisture, which can lead to rusting. Rust is never a good thing on metals. Some believe that a gun should be shot a couple times before entering the woods this allows the gun to be fouled and provides better accuracy. Regardless of their reasoning, it is a good idea to take a few target shots before leaving your home. Only leave the gun this way for a few hours, not days. A bow won’t need to be cleaned nearly as often, but you should still take a few practice shots before heading out.
- Bathe Before, and After:
Removing your manufactured scent could be one of the most valuable deer hunting tips. The deer can smell a human from a great distance away. Take a shower using a non-scented shampoo, and soap. Don’t use anything that is scented. These scents will travel through the woods and alert the deer of a strange scent. If you are crafty and willing to try, consider making homemade soap from some natural materials like jewelweed. This weed commonly grows in the woods and is great for your skin. Soaps made of natural materials will lead you to smell like the woods. Make sure to do your research before using plants from the woods in your soap. You could end up with something that is poisonous to your skin. You should also use something that grows naturally in the area you intend to hunt.
- Stay Warm, and Don’t Sweat:
The second most valuable deer hunting tip that I can provide is how to dress for the sport. Deer season is in the fall and winter months when the weather is usually colder. These temperatures without the proper protection can leave you layed up in bed with a nasty cold for days after the hunt if you don’t dress accordingly. Dress in layers to provide insulation for your body and protect it against the cold weather outside, but don’t apply so many layers that your body begins to get so warm that you sweat. Sweating when it is cold outside is a sure fire way to catch a cold or worse. If you feel your body begin to perspirate, start taking off layers to slow or stop the process.
- Re-pack gear:
In the winter there is moisture everywhere, and moisture on your gear can be a bad thing. Consider packing your flashlights and knives in moisture lock containers. This may not be entirely necessary on a clear day, but in the event of rain or snow, and a failed moisture repellent bag, you will be grateful of the second layer of protection.
- Think About Snacks:
Sometimes hunting trips can last from the sun up to the sundown depending on how patient you are. Others if you are lucky are over in a few short hours. Either way, you may wish to have something with you to snack on while you wait for the deer to stroll by. Always think before you simply pack an item into your bag. Sound and smell are two things that need to have major thought. An apple is good, but kind of loud when you bite into it. Bananas, on the other hand, are soft and don’t have a distinctive lingering smell. Jerky, Granola bars, and other like items are great choices to bring with on a trip. They don’t make too much noise, and they don’t have too strong of a scent.
- Repacking Your Lunch:
After you have made your lunch choice, you need to further think of the packaging that they came in. Is it easy to open with your gloves on? Does the packaging make a bunch of noise when you try to open it? What about after you have finished opening it, will it rustle in your bag if you need to change your location? Consider placing the items in a bowl with a lid that is easy to open. Bowls with a good tight lid will keep your lunch fresh, quiet, and won’t leave any trash behind.
- Walk slow:
A brisk walk through the woods will rustle up the leaves and twigs on the forest floor and create a large amount of noise to warn the deer of your presence. If you think you are walking slow enough, slow down even more. Slow, gentle steps ensure that you are paying attention to what is at your feet so you don’t step on a twig or pile of leaves. Doing so will also allow you to listen closely to the animals that are making noises too.
- Walk like a squirrel:
If you really must get to your destination in a hurry consider doing so in the way that a squirrel does. They will skip and jump through the leaves quickly, then stop suddenly, pause for a moment, then continue again. It is easy for you to mimic this behavior by giving a few brisk steps, then stopping. You may feel silly for doing this but it creates a sound that is normal to the deer. They are used to the way squirrels and other animals walk through the woods. You, on the other hand, have a unique walk that warns them right away that you are there to make them dinner.
- Stop and listen:
If you do make a sudden noise that is out of the normal for a deer to hear in the woods, take a minute to stop and listen. You will forget rather quickly that a noise was just made but to a deer strange noises mean danger. They will stop foraging and look in the direction the noise came from waiting for the next sign of danger before they run. Stand there as long as you can before moving you may not have spooked the deer yet. After a few minutes, they will return to grazing. Be careful of making any further noises, though.
- Wind Direction:
The wind is a great tool that can be used in your favor if done correctly. This is a common step that most new hunters ignore. Although it is a great tool, it can only be used properly if steps have been taken ahead of time to know where the deer are located. Scour the woods before you plan to do a hunt. Walking like a squirrel like previously mentioned will help not to scare the deer away. Once you have found traces of the deer you will know where they like to roam. Make a mental note of where the deer hang out at, or better yet, mark it on a map. This is ideally done well before hunting season so the deer are not disrupted.
The wind doesn’t blow from the same direction every time. Although it does usually come from the same general area more often than not, it isn’t always the same. So plan for this by creating two or more deer stands throughout the area.
In the morning before entering the woods check the direction of the wind. Pick the stand that will keep the wind in your face while walking toward the deer. This will blow your scent away from them and refrain them from ever knowing of your presence.
- Check your shooting angles:
Stand in the center of your blind and rotate 360 degrees. Try to ensure clear shots all the way around. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but ensure that all possible locations for a deer to be are clear and ready to shoot from. Remove any tree limbs and debris with a small hand saw. Don’t try shooting through a bundle of twigs to hit the deer. Chances are that you will miss the shot and cause the limbs to break anyway.
- Pre-Season Prep:
Before the season begins, take a trip out to the blind or stand. Check everything for safety, and fix anything that needs to be repaired. At the blind, clear away any new growth from your shooting area. It is best to do this before the season begins.
- Stand Still:
Determination and practice are two factors that are required when deer hunting. You must be quiet and you must not make sudden movements. Both of these things can sometimes be difficult to do. If deer hunting is a skill that you want to learn, it is strongly recommended that you practice standing, or sitting still for long periods of time. Perfecting your ability to sit, or stand still for long periods of time will greatly improve the odds of scoring that next big buck. Try using a stopwatch at home to help with this skill. Slight movements are ok, you just won’t be able to get up and move around, or stretch your legs. Doing so could scare away the deer.
- Clear the ground area:
Gently use your boot to scoot the leaves and other debris away from the area you are in. Doing so removes possible sound-making materials. The soft dirt beneath the rubber of your boot doesn’t make any sound unless you stomp. Even the slightest of movement amongst a pile of leaves and twigs will generate a sound that the deer are capable of hearing. These sounds, will travel through the woods and straight into their ear drums alerting them to not only know that you are here to hunt them but also the exact location that you are in.
- Create Food In The Snow:
Thinning out the trees on your land has many perks. It helps to establish the roots systems of the larger trees, provides a home to the smaller critters, food for the larger ones, and the timber that gets cut can be used for firewood. Although in the case of deer hunting it can be left where it lands to provide food for the deer after the snow has fallen, and everything else is hidden. The deer will find the remaining leaves and smaller growth from the tops of the tree, and begin feasting. Watch the weather forecast, if they are calling for snow consider chopping down one or two smaller trees nearby. Leave them there, then come back to hunt after the snow has fallen. They won’t be able to find any food anywhere else and will surely dine in this spot.
- Watch The Wind Speed:
Studies and veteran hunters alike argue that wind speed plays a factor in the movement of the deer population. A deer will move on high alert through the area in search of food, water, and a safe place to sleep. They are always on alert because of predators. You being one on the list. Some believe that in high winds the deer are unable to sense the smells of predators in the area. If they are unable to sense predators they are unlikely to move from their current location. Usually, this is where they sleep. Consider staying home if the day is likely to be extremely windy.
- Follow-up with the Kill Quickly:
Coyote and other predators can smell the blood of a freshly killed deer from a mile away, and get to your prize before you do if you wait too long. It is even possible for other hunters to stumble on, and place claim to your kill. Don’t waste much time before leaving the blind to search for your deer. It could cost you.
- Ask About Land Lease Options:
Don’t be afraid to contact land owners and ask permission to hunt on their property. Farmers are more inclined to give permission to do so. In a highly populated area, they can become a nuisance to the farmer. To prevent the deer from damaging their crops, some may give you permission to do so for free. There have been rare cases where the Department of Natural Resources has given special permission to hunt year round to prevent damage to the crops. Once you have scouted a nice piece of property that may be a great hunting spot, you can call the City Hall to get the owners name. They won’t be able to give you their home address or phone number, but with a name and a little bit of detective work aka internet searching you should be able to find the owner. Stopping at a neighboring house may help too. Sometimes the owner may live nearby, or the one that does live there may know the owner. Once you have contacted the owner remember to be polite, offer to pay, and even consider giving a gift for a yes answer.
- Don’t Be Afraid Of the Cold:
Deer are more inclined to venture from their safe zone in search for more food when it is colder. They need to retain their body fat to keep them warm. They will be more active and travel further if needed. If the weather man is suggesting that everyone stay inside and keep warm by the fire. Tell him no way! I’m going hunting. Just be sure to wear wool socks and an extra layer of clothes.
- Rain, Rain, Go Away!
Deer need the calm weather to use their spidey senses. This means no rain or heavy winds. If either of these conditions are present they will hunker down for the entire day if need be. They can’t smell a threat or hear them as well when it is raining. So they won’t move. Unless you are able to find their den, it is best to just stay home. Besides cold and wet are two conditions that are not great for our health either. The two together are a quick way to catch pneumonia.
- Pick Your Camo Wisely:
Don’t go into the woods wearing a snow camouflage pattern if there isn’t any snow. The same can be said for wearing a pattern that is meant to hide you amongst greenery when there isn’t any. The best camo is the one that hides you against the natural environment. I’m sure you have seen the advertisements for these prints where the guy is standing in the woods and you can barely make him out. If it is hard for you to see him, then you can bet that the deer can’t see him at all. Plan according to where you will be. Paying special attention to this will allow you to stand at the base of a tree and never be seen by the deer.
- Deer Move, Be Flexible
If you have permission to do so, consider installing a few blinds or stands throughout the woods. Deer are simple creatures, albeit elusive, but simple. They have the same basic needs as humans, eat, sleep, drink. They don’t have fancy houses where all of these comforts are readily available to them within a few thousand square feet like we do. They must search for their food. Usually, they find these things in the same place day after day. Creeks don’t move, so they will find their water source by a creek, or pond. Farmers are predictable, and will continue to plant things that deer like to eat right next to the wood line. Although sometimes they won’t be as lucky and will have to search in the woods to find their food source, either way, they must travel sometimes a few miles to find the things they need to survive. To cut down on hunting time, consider moving with them. Deer will rise with the sun, then venture out in search of food. They sleep through most of the day and set out in search of food again in the evening. Keep this in mind, and be willing to move with them when you are planning your hunting trip.
- Deer Don’t Always Eat A Farmers Buffet:
Usually, deer will love to eat the beans and corn that the farmer plant, but they prefer nuts and other high-fiber foods. This is because their body digests them slower. The slower they digest their food the less they have to get up and eat again. This process keeps them safe. When a deer is moving in search of food it is an easy target for hunters and other predators. If you have been scouting a farmers field filled with plenty of delicious corn, or beans and haven’t seen a single deer through most of the season you can bet they are getting their food from another location. Consider finding another location to hunt.
- Evening Hunts:
Don’t like waking up at the crack of dawn? Not a lot of people do, but it is part of the game. You don’t have to have a 3 am wake-up call just to get in place before the deer get up for the day. In the spring deer will eat every three to four hours, because of the lower quality food they are eating their body digests it faster. In the fall hunting season, they dine on higher fiber foods which digest much slower. Just because they don’t’ eat as often doesn’t mean that you can only hunt deer early in the morning. The deer are usually sleeping through most of the day, and will rise again in search of food later in the evening, consider doing a late day hunt.
- Plant things that they like:
Planting a food plot each spring will provide a place for the deer to eat. Further planning can provide a whole season of food just for the deer to dine on. No farmer, tractor, or pesticides needed. Clear out a smallish space on your property spread some seeds, and wait. Come back every few weeks and plant some more. Corn and other tall crops can be run over with a four-wheeler to make it easier for the deer to get to it. It isn’t necessary but does help. Don’t place your stand directly near the food plot. In most places, it is illegal to hunt over a manual food plot. Place the stand on the path that the deer would take to or from it.
- Want A Bigger Rack?
I’m referring to the deer here, if the bucks antlers aren’t quite as large as you had hoped for, it is because they are not getting the nutrition they need. A buck needs protein and minerals to grow larger. Consider placing mineral blocks in random places that you know the deer will travel past. They will help with the size of the rack, and also ensure that the deer continue to come back to this location to get more of the minerals they need.
- Using the Antlers:
Consider using a pair of antlers in conjunction with manufactured calls. Deer will shed their antlers in the spring to grow a new set. Most often they can be found laying on the forest floor. Clanking, rubbing, and banging two sets of fallen antlers together will recreate the sound that two young male deer make when fighting. They fight for a couple reasons, a doe, dominance, and to join the herd. Either way, when they hear this sound, they will come to check things out.
- Calls, and other tools:
There are a variety of tools on the market that can or say they will attract the deer to your location. Let’s say that you have a piece of land, and you know the deer are somewhere nearby but you almost never see them on your land. Use a call, to attract them to the property you are hunting on. They can be very helpful and in fact some sound exactly like a real deer does. Consider watching some videos on what an actual deer sounds like before going out in the field to use them. This way patterns in calls can be better mimicked in the field.
- Trail Cameras
These small camouflaged devices are a tool for the modern hunter for sure. Hunters have been successfully hunting deer for centuries before they were invented so while their use is not imperative to the skill they are quite useful to the busy hunter. Scouting the woods takes time, and effort to ensure that where you place your stand is in a prime location to actually get a deer. Cameras can be placed on a tree and will snap a picture every few seconds or will snap a picture after motion has been detected. After collecting the memory card and investigating the shots that have been taken, you can determine if this location is a great spot for activity, or if you need to choose another location.
- Storing Your Hunting Clothing:
After you have finished the hunt, do not wash your hunting clothes. Take everything off that you are wearing and place it in a plastic bag filled with leaves, sticks, and other forest debris found in the location you were hunting in. Keep them in this bag until the next time you plan to hunt. Make sure that everything is dry before bagging them up so that nothing gets molded and ruined. Also, make sure that the debris you place in the bag is dried dead material. They can also cause molding.
- Spray Eliminators:
Artificial spray eliminators or scent blockers are available to purchase that can be used to block your smell in the woods. They mask your scent with a more natural scent found in areas where deer roam. Use these sprays before entering the woods, once you arrive at your stand, or blind, and again after each time you eat something. When spraying make sure to hit your boots, and your hair or hat. Homemade versions can be made for free by boiling natural elements for a few hours. Strain off the debris, or leave it for a stronger scent. Allow to cool, then bottle the water in a spray bottle.
- Mock Rubs:
If you are having difficulties attracting a regular flow of deer to your land, consider making a mock rub. Rubs are trees that deer use to rub off the velvet from the new antler growth each year. They prefer trees that leave a lasting scent on them as they rub against the tree. It is a bit difficult to plant a full grown tree that would be great for the deer to use as a rub, but it is a possible task to install fence posts. Go to the local hardware store and purchase a few cedar fence posts. The thicker the better, because the deer will use them year after year, and eventually the constant rubbing will deteriorate the posts. Install them in a cluster or in a straight row, near a game trail.
- Mock Scrapes:
Mock scrapes are easier to create and cheaper to boot. In a way, they can also be more effective. Examine the area for other signs of deer activity before choosing your location. Find a location that has a branch hanging about four feet from the ground. Using gloves, and rubber boots rub the leaves, grass, and moss away from an area below. Using a circular motion create a space about a foot in diameter or larger. Purchase a bottle of buck urine, and pour it into the circle created. Allow the urine to soak into the ground, do not mix it. Grab the branch above it, and twist off the end to make it look like a deer has been chewing on it. Apply some manufactured preorbital gland scent to the end of the branch and walk away. Return a few days later to inspect. If it appears that a buck has taken over the space as his own then it is a good idea to set up your stand in this location. The buck will return here later. He will use this spot as an attractant for a mate.
- Safety Is Key:
Falling from a tree may not kill you but it could most definitely break a bone or two. If you are in the woods alone and fall from the tree how will you get help if one or both of your legs are broke? Don’t underestimate your sense of safety, it only takes one mistake to cause an accident. If you are going to be hunting from a tree stand make sure to utilize a full body safety harness. If you happen to overstep your bounds you will be kept on the platform by the harness.
- Doe Urine:
Improper use of doe urine will render itself as a wasted purchase. Unless you have harvested your own, then it is just wasted time. A buck will actively follow the doe in search of a mate during mating season, otherwise known as the rut. Applying doe urine around your stand or blind during the rut period is a great way to attract a buck. Hang a few towels soaked in doe urine around your hunting location. Re-soak them upon arrival each time you visit.
- Avoid Over Hunted Locations:
Public hunting areas can show to be effortless. Especially in locations that are smaller in size and neighboring large cities filled with hunters. In these areas there are many novice hunters that don’t do their homework, they may go in smelling like beer and cigarettes, and not caring about the efforts of another hunter. The deer are wise to these areas and will stay clear of them at all costs. In a case of my husband’s first attempt at hunting he almost got shot by an arrow, as he was hiding in a pile of brush.
That was the last time he hunted in a public area.
- Practice With Your Stand:
Believe it or not, the stand isn’t as easy to set up and take down as it may seem. It can be heavy, and quite loud. Unless you are on private property, you will need to take it down and set it up again each and every time you deer hunt. A new stand should be practiced with much the same way that a new gun should be practiced. If you have a collapsible blind the same applies. Practice setting it up and tearing it down until you are able to do so without making a single noise.
- Google Maps:
Scouting an area can be done without actually venturing out into the woods to determine where to look for potential hunting sites. Use google maps aerial photos to find game trails, creeks, and other clearings that may potentially be deer locations. Once you have them spotted you can use the maps to walk straight to them instead of walking around the woods aimlessly trying to find these locations. We live in a world filled with technology, use it to our advantage.
- Summer Work:
There may be a million other things that you would rather do in the summer than to think about hunting season, but it is worth it. Visit the stand and location that you intend to hunt in the summer. If any brush or new growth needs to be removed do so in the summer months. Don’t plan to do any work in the area in the winter hunting season. The deer can smell the new cut wood, and your scent may have lingered.
- Following The Blood Trail
Pay attention to the location that the deer was shot. With some practice, you will be able to tell how long you should wait for the deer to actually be dead, and when you should pursue the search for the animal. After the shot has been made the deer will usually run off, keep your eyes on the animal until it is out of site. Pick a tree or other marker nearby to follow as a guide to keep you in the right direction. After you have spotted the first drop of blood tear off a bit of toilet paper and place it nearby. Continue leaving bits as you follow the trail. If you were to lose track of the trail in search of the next blood spot, you can easily pick up where you left off. Once the deer has been spotted be cautious before walking up on the animal it may not be completely dead yet.
- Field Dress
Always field dress the deer before leaving the woods for many reasons. Removing the unusable organs, will remove unnecessary weight and make dragging the animal easier. Opening up the caucus and exposing it to the colder temperatures will allow the valuable meat to cool faster and stay fresh longer.
The previous 42 deer hunting tips are all those that we have learned on our journey to becoming better hunters, and have proven to be effective over the seasons. With time, and lots of practice you too will become a better hunter as well.