Deer hunting is a complex affair and is incredibly challenging, not just for the novice hunter, but for the most seasoned of outdoorsmen. Many things need to be taken into consideration such as animal movement, weather, wind direction, stand setup, and more. In this post, we are going to share some of our deer hunting tips and tricks that have worked and continue to work in your pursuit of any type of deer, from whitetails, mule deer, and blacktail deer.
Deer Hunting Locations
Your stand location is one of the most crucial aspects of being successful in a hunt. After all, you can’t shoot a deer if one isn’t near you, and if you’re using a bow this aspect is amplified greatly.
Narrow down your potential stand locations to three key areas, food sources, bedding areas, and travel corridors.
Two of these are obvious, but it’s important to take a few things into consideration. When hunting near bedding areas, be sure not to set your stand in the middle of these areas, but rather around them.
When looking for transition areas or travel corridors, look for areas that create natural funnels. These funnels could be areas in between two ridges, a wooded and overgrown fence line, or a dry path in a flooded cedar swamp.
After the location, is the best time of day to hunt deer.
Wind Direction Matters
Deer can smell 100 times better than any bloodhound, and to put it simply, you stink. Whenever you are going to your stand, you need to check the direction of the wind. If you walk to your stand and the wind is blowing your scent into bedding areas or in the direction the deer usually come from, you may have ruined your hunt before it even began.
Scent elimination products can help out with this, especially on critical areas like your boots, and scent covering and eliminating hunting clothes can seriously help out in the odor cause as well, but no matter what any brand tells you, you will never be 100% odor free, and you can’t cover up every foreign smell like shampoo, soap, chewing gum, you name it.
When you are in the stand it’s also important to keep track of wind direction just in case it switches direction. I like to use old dried up milkweed pods, the cotton like fluffy seeds inside float on the air and can pick up the smallest of air movement, and you can watch them carry on the wind for long distances.
Hunt the Rut Sun-up to Sun-Down
Pack a lunch, get a thermos full of coffee, and bring a roll of toilet paper, if you’re hunting the peak of the rut you should be in it for the long haul and hunt all day.
Bucks are in overdrive and are roaming through areas they have never ventured into for the entire year in search of does, they do this tirelessly 24-7. This means you have opportunities galore, especially in high traffic areas, so be on your stand and on alert all day long.
Don’t Burn out your Spots
As we mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to be 100% scent free. Sitting in your stand every day for a week or more is a bad idea, and the scent is one of the contributing factors as to why.
Deer aren’t stupid, especially the older ones, and they know when something foreign is in their backyard, that’s why you should limit your time spent in any given stand location to avoid burnout when deer avoid the area because they know of your presence.
Rotate between your setups, and you might actually see more deer in one if you only hunt it a few times a week versus every day.
Scout all Season
Deer hunting isn’t limited to when the actual hunting season is in play. You need to scout year-round, or at the very least spring through fall.
Trail cameras make it easy to do this and have changed how we scout for deer, you don’t even have to leave the couch to access your trail cameras in the modern hunting age, you can simply pull the photos up on your smartphone.
It’s important to know what to look for when buying a trail camera as well. Buying a game cam that suits your individual needs will prove beneficial in the long run.
If you do go in the woods to check your cameras make sure you limit it to once a week, this goes back to the burnout topic above, you want to keep your presence limited.
Be aware that even with trail cameras, you might not see every buck in your immediate area, and can go undetected. Shining at night in nearby fields with a spotlight briefly to see what is feeding is also a good idea, we do it for fun around here just to see big bucks.
This is something that’s incredibly helpful for hunting deer with a bow. I take objects and set them at precise distances which correlate with my sight pins. You can use anything, some orange marking tape around trees for example. I typically use old arrows since they typically have bright colored fletchings or vanes, I do this from 15 to 40 years in 5-yard increments in the direction the deer frequent.
I also do something that’s a bit unorthodox. I bring 2-3 arrows with field tips and pick out a leaf or pine cone and shoot at them near my arrow markers. Why do I do this you ask? Well, it’s all about angles, different stand height, and target distance means your arcing arrow trajectory is different, and you will notice that at certain distances you will be hitting high or low, and that can mean the difference between a kill shot and a whiff.
Don’t be a Tree Blob
What’s a tree blob? A tree blob is you, sitting in a tree with zero branches and foliage, which means you stick out like a sore thumb.
I’m guilty of this, and to be honest, it’s not always avoidable, sometimes you’re in an area that doesn’t have a plethora of pine trees or oak trees near a trail or other area.
When possible, you should be putting your stand in a tree where you have a lot of surrounding foliage and a backdrop behind you to help you blend in.
If your hunting field edges or open areas out west this is less of an issue, but if you’re hunting in dense cover like my home region in the northern great lakes, you need to trim brush, branches, and saplings out of the way to give you a clear shot. This is especially important when hunting from ground blinds.
If you are bowhunting any small or insignificant seeming twig can ruin your season. Many hunters have vivid memories of an arrow sailing to the moon after glancing off a small branch that they thought their arrow had no chance of hitting, heck even supersonic
bullets aren’t immune to a tree branch.
Deer Hunting Clothing
When picking new hunting clothes keep one thing in mind, is it noisy? Noisy? What do you mean by noisy?
It may not seem like it to you when you are not in your stand, but in the dead still, and quiet woods, the simple act of drawing your bow and having your sleeve rub against another part of your coat can be loud enough for a deer to hear, and it’s happened to me on more than one occasion.
I recommend fleece jackets, they are as silent as they come with no scratch noises when you move around.
Bad shot? Now what?
All hunters hate to make a bad shot on a deer, you know the one I’m talking about, the dreaded gut shot.
Many hunters who make a gut shot do the one thing they shouldn’t track within hours of taking it.
If you put a bad shot on a deer the best thing to do is wait, go home, try to sleep, and pray that the coyotes don’t find it.
If you start tracking a deer right after a bad shot, you’re likely to jump it from the place it decided to lay low and potentially die at. Jumping a wounded deer can result in a lost deer, as many times the blood will clot, and you will lose a blood trail.
If you go out the next day and search all day, or for multiple days, chances are you either didn’t see it, or depending on the shot placement, the deer actually might survive, deer are incredibly tough animals and you would be surprised at what they can live through.
At the end of the day it’s important to remember that your #1 priority is to enjoy the outdoors and take in nature, in my opinion harvesting an animal is a bonus. Too many times we get caught up in needing the best gear, or the new hot item on the market. Just get out in the woods and let the squirrels scare you as they sound like a giant buck walking to your tree.