We may see someone walking into the woods with visions of a 10 point bucks dancing through a hunter’s head on the first day of deer season, only to see that same person walk out of the woods wondering where all the deer went, or what happened to make them miss an easy shot. Well, even a even a broken clock is right twice a day and even someone new to deer hunting can also just be in the right place at the right time, but it is still preferable to take the time to learn deer hunting tips, and basic woodsmanship in order to prepare for deer hunting season.
The basics or deer hunting 101 should begin by finding areas that not only have game activity but that you also have permission to hunt. If you are scouting public land, make sure that hunting is permissible on that land, and if there are any special conditions or quota restrictions that must be considered to deer hunt. I was very lucky to have two friends who spent the time to teach me what to look for when pre-season scouting and teach me where to place my tree stands for deer hunting. Being from Miami, Florida this took quite a few trips up to Wisconsin and many hours in the woods.
It’s not enough just to know that there are deer in the area merely by seeing tracks on game trails, you will want to know where they are going and why. Pay attention to any nearby fields that have been harvested or have crops of corn or soy bean or some other food source that deer will be attracted to. You will want to know about nearby water sources as well. Once you have figured out all these possibilities, it then narrows down to a situation of not so much where a deer will come by, but when. Aerial maps are great for finding natural funnels to certain areas. A much overlooked component to deer hunting but incredibly important is knowing the prevailing winds for the time of the year and that area. Setting up with the wind at your back is like sending a telegram to the deer telling them exactly where you are. There are products on the market that can help mask your scent and scent blocking clothing that can assist in minimizing the scent dispersal, but these should be used in conjunction with proper tree stand and blind placement to give the deer hunter the best possible chance of success.
Now that you have decided on several prime pieces of real estate that you feel will give the best chance of harvesting a deer you will need to decide whether you will be hunting from a ground blind or a tree stand. There are several options for each. Bow hunters tend to prefer tree stands as they give a much better view of any animals coming in and they assist in scattering your scent above and away from any nearby deer allowing them to come very close to the stand without detecting your presence. You will also be above the animal’s line of sight, so if you don’t twitch around too much it will be much harder for a deer to realize you are there. If you are planning on a tree stand, take into consideration your physical abilities in order to determine what type of stand best suits you, and the method of climbing into that stand as well. Before climbing into the stand it is good practice to mark off some yardage to assist in properly gauging distance for a shot. Remember, you may be 20’ above the ground so take all recommended safety precautions seriously. If you are hunting from a ground blind it is important to position the blind so that you have a good field of view and clear shooting lanes, and don’t forget enough brush behind you to breakup the outline of the blind. If you are not using a portable climbing stand, you may consider placing several stands (on private land) depending on conditions and wind directions and use the one that seems most optimal for that day.
The clothing that will be worn on this deer hunting adventure depends upon where and the time of year your will be hunting. Boots can not only be a lifesaver by being comfortable and waterproof, but depending on what kind you are wearing they may assist in keeping your scent as you walk into the woods down to a minimum. I take my stealth ability very seriously and shower with unscented soap and shampoo as well as doing laundry with unscented detergent. I then immediately place my clothing in a sealed bag and do most of my dressing once I park my car and prepare to move out. This was very awkward on afternoon when I was stopped for blown brake light. Some of my friends tend to think less of their scent in favor of properly utilizing wind direction. Weather can change significantly during the hunting hours and it pays to dress in layers as it’s much easier to remove layers in a tree stand or blind then to put more on. Be prepared for most possibilities including rain. Gloves, boots and layers of scent blocking clothing should work nicely and be given considerable thought. You may also want to spray yourself down with one of the many scent blocking products available before heading into the woods.
As the deer hunting season draws near, let us not forget to go over our equipment, especially rifles and Bows. Spend as much time at the range in order to feel confident that your equipment, scope included, is in the best possible condition, and that you are proficient with its use. There is nothing worse than wounding an animal with an errant or ill-advised shot. The responsible hunter must do all in his power to avoid this, including being capable with his equipment.
Finally, if you are new to deer hunting, I will give you this word of advice from personal experience, if the gods are with you and you do harvest a deer, it might pay to have a plan with your buddies to come and assist in the tracking and field dressing of the animal. This is especially true if you have never done this before. My first deer with a bow is a source of amusement to my friends whom not only had to calm me down (yes, I called them from my cell phone!) but before they could help track and teach me to field dress the animal, they had to help get me down from the tree stand as I was having a mild panic attack! All in all, I put in the time and did my homework which put me in a position to succeed. If you take the time and prepare properly, you may not be guaranteed a big buck, but you will be guaranteed your best chance and have a heck of a great time in the process.
** We encourage all accomplished hunters to add to this article with comments so that your experiences may help others enjoy the great outdoors!