Basics of Deer Hunting

All the basics of deer hunting for the beginner
Deer hunting is a favorite fall pastime

It is hard to beat sitting in a tree stand or ground blind on a crisp fall morning, waiting for the snap of a stick or a rustle in the fallen leaves that signifies the big one is here.

Hundreds of thousands of people across North America look forward to deer hunting in the fall every year. Whether you are a newbie or experienced hunter here are some tips on how to make sure you go home with more than stories of the one that got away.

Scents and Scrapes

Around mid-October deer start to get that itch, that itch to pair up and mate. The male (or buck as we all know it) will mark his territory by finding trees and making a scrape. He will rub his antlers up and down on the tree and scrape away the leaves on the ground at the tree’s base until he reveals the bare earth. Then he deposits his “scent” in the scrape. The buck will make several scrapes in his territory in hope of attracting a female (doe) to the area. If she is smitten by the scent of the buck, she will leave her scent on top of his and wait around the scrape for him to return.

Bucks tend to their scrapes daily and will return within 24 hours to check on it and make sure everything is still just right. Find an area with lots of scrapes, set up a ground blind or trees stand any where from 20 to 50 yards away if you are bow hunting, longer if you are using a rifle. The buck is sure to return and you may even be so lucky to find a doe waiting for him there too. If another buck comes upon the scrape of the first buck, he will leave his scent in it as a sign that the territory is now his. Bucks are extremely territorial during the rut and it doesn’t take much to start a fight between them, and this can be used to your advantage.

Stay Invisible

Set up the ground blind or tree stand as quietly as possible. Deer are very sensitive to strange noises in their woods and it doesn’t take much at all to spook them off. Always use a scent killer spray on your boots and wear scent-locking clothing whenever possible while working in the area of a scrape. When you do find a scrape, bedding area or other deer hang out try hanging some commercial deer scent around the area. Doe in estrus or that of another buck is sure to catch the attention of any deer that may be passing by.

Approach your deer hunting site from downwind (with the wind blowing in your face) to prevent your scent from blowing ahead of you giving the deer an early warning of your arrival. Wear boots that are warm and water-proof with relatively soft soles to keep your steps quiet when hiking in to your site.

Using Deer Calls

One of the simplest and most common ways to bring deer into your hunting area is to call for them. Does make a unique “bleating’ sound to signal that they are ready to mate and any bucks in the area will be listening for it. The bucks respond with a ‘grunt’ sound. There are many different products on the market that will imitate the grunt and bleat sounds, or for fun try imitating them yourself. Just make sure everyone with you knows you are learning to speak deer or you may get some unusual and annoyed looks.

Deer in rut like a fight. If a buck finds another buck in his territory going after his does, it’s going to be on, and often another will come by to watch or take part. On days with little or no wind to circulate the smell of your scents around, try to add some rattling along with your calls. Using either real antlers or commercially purchased rattle bags smack them together to imitate the sound of bucks locking antlers.

When done from a tree stand the sound will carry over a larger area increasing your chances. As with all calls, don’t use them too often. Make a call and wait twenty minutes to half an hour. If you don’t get a reply try again or quietly move to another location. Try using different types of calls to make it sound like there is more than one buck in the area.

deer hunting treestands
Treestand blinds can be set up in areas with little cover or no trees

Set Up a Blind

Whether you are deer hunting from a ground blind, or a tree stand don’t forget to camouflage yourself. Place branches around your blind or stand to help break up your shape. Camouflage clothing such as Mossy Oak or Realtree patterns are much more effective when hidden behind some cover.

If you are using a tree stand make sure you hang it at over 16’ off the ground. Tree stands are very effective as they give the hunter a wide view of the area and any scent you may leave will be dispersed high above the deer’s head. Be sure to wear an approved safety harness in case you happen to slip or fall. Also, hoist your bow or gun up separately on a lift line rather than carrying it up with you. This way should you slip and fall while climbing you won’t land on your gear.

Ground blinds are great when the weather turns chilly or if it is raining or snowing because they help to keep you and your equipment dry. Just remain still and wait. A bench in your blind will make it much more comfortable while you wait for the big one, and if you have the space, try setting up a small table to put your calls and extra arrows on. By keeping everything in reach you can minimize your movements and thereby reduce the chance or spooking away deer when they finally show up.

There are many different techniques to use in deer hunting. Most importantly keep in shape and practice shooting regularly so when the big day comes, you can bring home more than just stories of the view from your tree stand.

Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson