Preparation is Key
- 1 Preparation is Key
- 2 Early Start to Deer Hunting
- 3 Planning is also vital…
- 4 Best Whitetail Scouting Times
- 5 Frequent Scouting
- 6 Rain Is Your Friend When Deer Hunting…
- 7 Deer and Storms
- 8 Check Wind Direction
- 9 Note the Wind Direction and Your Scent
- 10 Scent free Rifle/Handgun
- 11 Be quiet and think ahead
- 12 Spot The Deer
- 13 Stand Preparation
- 14 Deer Hunting Stand
- 15 Stand Height
- 16 Use Natural Cover To Hide Your Stand
- 17 Don’t climb with your Gun/Bow…
- 18 Use Scents To Attract Whitetails
- 19 Capture your Scent
- 20 Where Are The Biggest Bucks?
- 21 Signs, signs and More Deer Signs!!
- 22 Backtrack known whitetail deer trails
- 23 Stop That Deer in his tracks
- 24 Antler Rattling
- 25 Rattling Whitetail Deer
- 26 Calling Whitetail Deer
- 27 Stop running Whitetail deer
- 28 Cover Your Predator Eyes
- 29 Where to Shoot a Deer
- 30 Locating Wounded/Downed Game
- 31 Give Your Deer Hunting Area a Rest
Becoming a successful deer hunter means lots of preparation work well before deer hunting season. For example, check that you have an up to date topographic map of your chosen hunting area.
Don’t rely solely on a GPS – they can fail at the wrong time. Learn how to use a compass. You also need to figure out how much food, water, etc you need whether stand or still hunting.
Doing your preparation work ahead of time also gives you peace of mind knowing that you are really prepared for anything.
Early Start to Deer Hunting
This may seem obvious, even to beginners, but getting out to your stand or blind before daylight is important.
Why? Because often its those few minutes before dawn that animals like deer start to move (i.e. back to bedding areas, walking along game trails).
Planning is also vital…
When hunting season is just weeks away, check forecasted weather conditions 7 days in advance.
Especially use the free weather sites found via the Internet. Forecasts can give you an idea as to wind direction and therefore which direction to approach your stand, blind, or even if you need to hunt an entirely different area altogether.
Best Whitetail Scouting Times
So when is the best time to scout potential deer areas for next hunting season? January to March.
At this time of the year its easy to move about the woods without worrying about spooking deer, allowing you to cover lots of ground to find deer sign and new areas to hunt.
Don’t be concerned if you disturb deer, because you will have ample time before next hunting season for any spooked deer to settle down again in their normal territory.
Also, its far easier to spot deer sign during this time of the year than in Summer when tall, thick foliage makes it difficult to find sign. Ideally, take a notepad along and make notes where you find deer sign.
Scout your hunting area all year round to find any activity of deer – even after your deer hunt is over. Why? Because any sign you find indicate there are deer still active in the area (i.e. survived hunting season, cold winter, etc).
Planning your hunt next season becomes easier if you know deer are still active in your area despite all the distractions, etc. Its better to do this year round to really know whats happening in your hunting area.
Rain Is Your Friend When Deer Hunting…
Firstly, light rain makes the ground you walk upon on the forest floor quiet and this helps silence your approach to a stand.
Just like snow, rain also pushes your human scent down to the ground, rather than swirl around at the slightest breeze.
If a big storm is approaching its best to focus your deer hunting around known feeding areas because deer really like to feed before a big storm. The same is true after a big storm.
Deer and Storms
Most game animals are more active before a storm approaches their territory. This applies to whitetail deer as well.
However, did you know that most animals like deer are highly active up to 16 hours before such a storm arrives? A few hours before the storm most deer are bedded down in thick cover and will stay put until the storm is over.
This means you need to hunt almost a full day before such a storm arrives to find deer at their most active – so check your the weather reports for the area you intend to hunt.
Check Wind Direction
If there is one thing that will ruin your deer hunt, no matter how perfect everything else is, its the breeze or wind that carrys your scent to them. Get this wrong and your hunt is over.
Checking wind direction before you set off hunting is essential. I always carry a small squeeze bottle filled with unscented talcum powder. Its so simple to use – just hold the bottle up and give it a little squeeze and watch which direction the powder is going. Always keep the wind blowing in your face!
Note the Wind Direction and Your Scent
Let’s say you find a well used deer trail. Now take note of the direction those deer tend to be traveling based on their tracks.
Do you see a pattern? Do they mostly come from a northerly direction? If so, stay downwind of deer approaching from that direction.
Most game animals, deer in particular, have an incredible sense of smell.
You want to get the wind working in your favor or else you’ll never see one – they’ll smell you a mile away!
Of course there are many things you can do to minimize or mask your scent, such as sprays, carbon impregnated clothing, etc. However, the number one rule in hunting is to always be downwind of any game animal, regardless of camo clothing or other technology.
Scent free Rifle/Handgun
Scent free clothing is so popular among whitetail deer hunters today – but what about your hunting gun? If we humans can smell the oil and solvents from our guns, just think how easily a whitetail deer can smell it with their superior sense of smell.
What to do? Try using a Gunbrella. This cover wraps around the scope, action and stock. You then spray the cover with your whitetail deer scent eliminator.
With so much effort put into scent free clothing, its important to do the same for your gun.
Think Like A Bug Buck…
If you were a big buck, what would you seek out in your environment? Access to food, cover (shelter) and water are primary considerations.
Also, easy, quick access to does is another priority. If you can find an area that features all the above, you’ll find your buck sooner rather than later provided you don’t spook him.
Whitetail Deer Areas…
If you come across an old, abandoned homesite in the middle of the forest, such areas are magnets for deer, particularly if such overgrown homesites are not easy to find.
Normally lots of brush and weeds will have grown up around such a site, offering plenty of cover. The young saplings provide browse and overgrown fields harbor forbs and other food.
Often you’ll find a fruit tree producing enough apples to keep deer within the area (particularly old bucks) coming back for more!
Be quiet and think ahead
Animals like whitetail deer know when something foreign or strange has entered their territory or environment. Excessive noise is guaranteed to spook deer in the immediate area.
So take your time and be as quiet as possible. Also, plan ahead. For example, clear the track to your tree stand from leaves, twigs and other objects likely to cause noise.
This is important because you must get in your stand well before daylight, without making a racket and scaring off any deer.
Spot The Deer
When hunting whitetail deer or any other deer for that matter, a good pair of binoculars (the best you can afford) are absolutely essential.
Thoroughly scan the area you intend to hunt with binoculars BEFORE you move to another area. You’d be surprised what you can see when you take the time to look.
Using your eyesight alone to spot deer or deer movement puts you at a huge disadvantage. Its virtually impossible to see the small details 200 yards ahead that could be an ear, antler or face of a whitetail deer. Binoculars are an essential tool for serious hunters – use them.
Pre-season scouting involves lots of hiking in the woods.
One item you should carry with you while scouting for best deer stand sites is a pair of compact shears. Shears allow you to quickly cut any branches or saplings that could be in the way once you have selected a deer stand.
Its also a good idea to remove any dead brush or brittle branches from the path to your deer stand. You want to minimize any noise you make as you walk to your stand (usually before the sun comes up, in almost total darkness).
Deer Hunting Stand
Most hunters setup their deer hunting stand a few weeks before the season begins. This is probably too late. Setup your stand atleast 4-6 weeks earlier. Why? You don’t want to alarm deer in your hunting area that something new is in their environment so close before the season begins.
Give deer plenty of time to get used to the stand. If you can, try to camoflauge your stand and cut any limbs to get a good sightline.
What height is ideal to hang your stand? Keep in mind that you want your stand to hand high enough so that its out of a deer’s natural sightline.
Too low and that buck will spot you right away. Too high and accurate shots with archery equipment is not easy.
The best height to hang your stand? This height occurs between 15 – 20 feet.
Use Natural Cover To Hide Your Stand
This might seem obvious but hanging your stand on a nice, straight tree trunk will make climbing easier but you’ll stick out and deer will spot you easily.
If you have no option but to place your stand on such a tree then use as much camoflauge as possible.
Avoid using hunter orange on moving parts such as arms and legs if permitted by law.
Don’t climb with your Gun/Bow…
This sounds obvious but you should always leave your gun or bow on the ground when climbing up to your hunting stand.
Make sure your gun is unloaded first, then secure one end of approximately 30 feet of strong cord/rope to your gun. Then secure the other end to you (around your belt).
Simply climb up to your stand, taking your time of course, then take a minute or so to get comfortable and organized. Now you are ready to pull your gun/bow up into your hunting stand.
Use Scents To Attract Whitetails
Once you have determined a suitable area to hunt Whitetail deer, you should consider using scents to attract deer to your hide/stand.
So what scents should you use? That depends on the time of the rut. In a pre-rut use either buck or doe urine, buck in rut or doe in heat scents. They are very effective at this time.
During the scraping phase, its best to imitate another buck by rubbing bark from a small overhanging branch not far from a known deer trail, then smearing forehead scent (scent from glands between the antlers) on the rubbed part. Tarsal scent (scent from the gland on the inside of the rear leg) is then poured a short distance along the deer trail starting from the overhanging branch.
Always setup any scents in a location where you can see the deer from your stand or hide.
Capture your Scent
Lets assume you are in your tree stand or blind and you need to go to the toilet – what do you do? Always carry an empty bottle with a lid. Use the bottle to catch your scented liquid, then seal it up tight.
Never let your urine scent soak into the ground (especially in prime deer locations). Whitetail deer, like most animals, have superb sense of smell and if they smell you scent, you’ll never see deer pass your stand/blind or even come into the immediate area.
Where Are The Biggest Bucks?
Getting in your hunting stand or blind before dawn and waiting patiently for that big buck to cross your path is a sure way of seeing big trophy bucks – this method has worked for thousands of deer hunters.
However, what do you do if this approach to hunting deer fails, day after day?
If you have the patience, stay in your blind or stand ALL day (don’t forget to take some lunch and other snacks). Be especially alert between 10:00am and 2:00pm – that smart monster buck who has lived through many deer hunting seasons might show himself – its worth a try!
Signs, signs and More Deer Signs!!
If the area you plan to hunt over from a stand shows little to no signs of deer, then consider moving to a different spot. Be on the lookout for rubs, scrapes, fresh tracks – anything that tells you deer frequent this area.
Rubs high up a tree indicate a large buck. Tracks tell you direction of movement and scrapes near doe trails are a good sign bucks are visiting that area quite frequently.
Always position your stand about 20 yards minimum downwind of such areas, if possible, behind some natural cover (but not blocking your line of sight).
Backtrack known whitetail deer trails
Still hunting whitetail deer is probably the hardest form of hunting. It involves walking slowly around known feeding areas (ie, open field bordered by woods), stopping frequently, then scanning the area around you.
Sometimes smart deer hide in the woods about 40-50 yards in and watch you walk right past.
One way to trick deer like this is to backtrack along the trail you came, say 10 minutes later, while looking intently for signs of movement.
Sometimes that whitetail buck will believe that the danger has passed and they’ll get up and walk around or head straight into the open to feed – have your gun ready!
Stop That Deer in his tracks
If a deer runs past your stand or hide, but it is not aware of your presence, the best way to stop him is to give a short whistle. Usually the deer will stop to glance in the direction the sound came from.
But before you even whistle, make sure your gun is mounted, ready to fire and you are following the running deer using your scope. Whistle, then steady yourself for a shot. You’ll only have a few seconds to shoot, so make it count!
It is not natural for deer to fight each other, using their antlers, for long periods of time. Therefore it makes sense not to overdo rattling.
Rattle for short periods of time, say 30-60 seconds, then rest and be alert for approaching deer – if you see deer coming your way, tease him by gently tapping the antlers. This will make him approach closer.
Rattling Whitetail Deer
Grinding your rattling antlers together with lots of force is not a good idea because it is not natural. A good technique is to simply touch them together with little force.
Think about it, Whitetail deer only fight for short periods of time, so rattling too long or with too much force could end up spooking deer instead of attracting them to you – try it next time and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Calling Whitetail Deer
Firstly, it is not natural to use your deer call too frequently. This can actually drive deer away from your stand/hide.
Instead, try limiting your calling to every 30 minutes, and with differing intensity or volume. And you don’t have to be too loud with your call. If you spot a trophy buck 100 yards away, don’t call too loudly. You’ll get his attention by grunting softly. Only use a loud grunt call if its really windy.
Stop running Whitetail deer
Use a Whitetail grunt call to momentarily stop a spooked or running Whitetail deer. The whitetail deer, 9 times out of 10, will stop to look back and think another buck/doe spooked him.
But get ready for a quick shot because he won’t stay still for long and will probably continue running after pausing for 3-5 seconds. Use your grunt call with maximum volume, 2 to 3 times, then track the deer in your scope and get ready for a shot when he stops.
Cover Your Predator Eyes
This is very important, especially when bow hunting because you need to get as close as possible to make a shot on that trophy whitetail.
COVER YOUR EYES – Your eyes will give you away if a deer looks toward you.
Predators have eyes that point forward (like us), while prey animals have their eyes positioned on the outside of their heads (almost 360 degree view). You need to cover your predator eyes using a face mask, so deer cannot figure out what you are if they look at you.
This has worked many, many times for me while bowhunting.
Where to Shoot a Deer
By far the best place to shoot a whitetail deer is in the chest area. Why? Because this is where most of the major organs, veins and arteries are located. A bullet placed in this region results in a humanely killed deer – the aim of every deer hunter.
Pick a spot about halfway up the shoulder of the deer and a little behind the shoulder. Aim for this same area if the deer is facing away from you but at an angle.
Locating Wounded/Downed Game
Lung shots typically result in the deer sprinting between 100-200 yards before expiring – some even travel much further.
So how would you find a wounded/downed deer that was shot just on dusk and heading straight for thick cover? There is a simple solution. Use a fluorescent light.
These flashlights are cheap and can save you hours of tracking time – so always carry one. Blood and other similar fluids glow yellow when you shine fluorescent light upon them.
Give Your Deer Hunting Area a Rest
Hunting your chosen deer area day in and day out is not a good idea. You should allow time for things to settle.
Also, hunting an area too hard leaves a footprint (literally) plus lots of human scent if you’re not careful.
Allow 2 full days before hunting the same area again, and only hunt those areas where you are least likely to disturb deer (i.e. watching over a field that lies next to the forest edge rather than walking along the edge of it).