One of the most important things that we can do as deer hunters is to help get beginners involved in our sport in order to pass down the traditions of hunting. Below you will find our best deer hunting tips for beginners that will help them start hunting and be successful in getting their first deer.
1. Know Your Quarry
The first thing that you should be doing as a beginner deer hunter is to learn as much as you can about the deer.
Once you learn about the deer, it becomes much easier to predict where he will be and what he will be doing during the season and even at different times during the day
There are many types of deer and it would be impossible to cover hunting tips on all of them in one article, so we are going to focus on the white tailed deer and not mule deer for this article, as the North American whitetail is the most sought after game animal in the world.
Deer are incredibly adaptable animals and can live in almost any habitat from dense forest to small city woodlots and everything in between.
The one thing that is a constant in preferred deer habitat is that they love edges.
Edges can be very obvious, such as where a field meets forest, but they can also be less obvious, such as where a steep hillside meets a bench, or flat spot.
Any change in terrain or flora can be an edge and that is where you are going to find deer and other big game.
When are they most active
Deer are crepuscular, which means most deer movement is at dawn and dusk. This can change based on weather and other factors like, time of year, which we will cover later in this article.
Many beginners think that deer are nocturnal. This is generally not true, but some mature deer will become nocturnal during the hunting season as a result of pressure from other hunters being in the woods.
Even the mature deer that become nocturnal will resume normal behavior as the hunting pressure subsides.
Where do they sleep
Deer do not sleep for any significant amount of time. They doze off for short periods of time, but they do bed down during the day and at night. They bed down in what we call bedding areas and they tend to use the same areas quite frequently because they learn which areas are the safest.
These bedding areas will usually have a good field of view where the deer can see predators coming from a long way off and adequate security cover nearby.
The bedding areas will usually have prevailing winds that allow the deer to watch in one direction and use their incredible olfactory senses to smell danger from the opposite direction.
Once you have found the bedding area of the deer, you have the first part of the puzzle.
The next part of the puzzle is figuring out where the deer eat.
Where do they eat
Deer eat a variety of food from crops like corn and soybeans to mast crops like acorns and also browse.
Browse is considered leaves, twigs and succulent buds on woody plants. It gets its name from the fact that the deer and other big game animals are usually moving slowly and taking a bite every few steps.
Deer will have a favorite food in your area during the time that you will be hunting.
In many areas that is going to be acorns. Specifically, white oak acorns. They like all acorns, but the white oaks are like candy to them when they are falling and as a hunter you should take advantage of that.
Apples are another favorite food of the deer. If you are fortunate enough to have apple trees in the area you hunt, you are very lucky.
Some experienced hunters even put in a food plot for the deer so that they know where they are going to feed.
Find where the deer are feeding in the area you hunt and you have the second piece to the deer hunting puzzle.
How do they get from where they eat to where they sleep
Deer tend to use the same trails from where they bed down to where they eat. This makes those trails very discernible and easy to find, just look for all the deer tracks.
These trails are where you are going to do your hunting. You can catch the deer going from their bedding area to the food source in the afternoon and going from the food source to the bedding area in the morning.
The trick is to pattern the deer movement so that you know when they are using these trails.
Then you will know when and where you are going to be waiting when the deer come.
2. Choose Your Weapon
Now that you have some knowledge about deer, their habits and how you are going to plan your hunt. It is time to choose a weapon that you will use.
There are basically two deer hunting seasons. One is bowhunting season and one is firearms season.
Each season is defined by the weapon used.
Let’s take a look at the different weapons.
Bowhunting season for deer is usually the longest season and can last from September to February in some states. For this reason, hunting with archery gear has become very popular.
Getting a deer within bow range can be very challenging for a new deer hunter.
It used to be that only recurve bows and compound bows were allowed for hunting during bow season, but now the vast majority of states allow crossbows as well.
Your home state will most likely require you to take a bowhunter education course before they will issue you a license.
A compound bow is a modern bow made up of cables, pulleys and cams that make it easier to draw and easier to hold the draw for a long period of time due to “let off”.
With some practice, a bowhunter can become very proficient at shooting a compound bow, which results in quicker, cleaner kills.
Compound bowhunters can also take longer shots than traditional archers.
These bows are usually shot with a bow release, which is a device with a trigger that is used to draw and release the bowstring.
They also use a bow sight that makes finding and hitting your target much easier.
Compound bows are much easier and much more accurate than a traditional recurve bow.
There was a time when a recurve bow or long bow was the only weapon used for bowhunting deer and there are still many traditionalists that prefer the challenge of hunting with a recurve.
Recurve bows are shot using your fingers to draw and release the bowstring, which can be challenging to repeat the release the same each time.
They are also shot instinctively, without the use of a bow sight.
Hunting with a recurve bow is not usually for beginners because of the difficulty and the amount of practice and experience that is needed for a successful hunt.
A crossbow is like a combination of a bow and a gun. It is cocked, or loaded with and arrow, called a crossbow bolt and then all that is needed to fire is to pull the trigger.
This changed the game in bowhunting because the most difficult part of bowhunting used to be drawing your bow undetected.
A deer's vision is so much better than a human's and they are incredibly good at picking up movement. Most bowhunters have been caught drawing their bow by deer at least once in their hunting career.
Crossbows have made that a thing of the past.
They are also the most accurate weapon that you can choose for bowhunting and they can even shoot farther than any other bow.
Firearms hunting seasons are much shorter than bowhunting seasons, usually lasting a week or two in most states and everyone in the woods or fields should wear blaze orange for their protection..
The problem with this is that it puts all of the firearms hunters in the woods at virtually the same time and has accurately resulted in coining the term “The orange army”, as the woods and fields become overrun with orange clad fellow hunters.
This results in the deer being pushed from everywhere except the thickest most non penetrable habitat available.
More deer on their feet means more deer harvested and most states have a very high whitetail hunting success rate for most hunters during the firearms season.
Let’s take a look at the weapons that are used during the firearms season.
A rifle is a long gun that fires a single projectile or bullet from a cartridge that contains gunpowder and a primer.
The name comes from the rifling in the barrel which is used to get the bullet spiralling as it exits the barrel which results in much higher accuracy.
Rifles come in a variety of calibers for hunting deer and other big game. Caliber is the size of the bullet used in the cartridge and a rifle can only fire one size cartridge.
Important Deer Hunting Tip For Beginners - Only use the exact caliber cartridge that a firearm is rated for. Never try to use a different caliber cartridge as it could get lodged in the barrel and cause bodily harm or death.
Some of the most popular calibers for white tailed deer are .243, 270, 280, 7mm, 30-30, .35, 30-06 and 308. Local laws will determine the minimum caliber that you can use.
Rifles have a very long range depending on the caliber used and with a little practice can be used to shoot big game animals hundreds of yards away.
Shotguns are similar to rifles, but are used at shorter ranges and they are capable of shooting multiple projectiles out of a single cartridge.
Shotguns traditionally have had a smooth bore barrel without rifling, which made tham much less accurate than rifles, however specialty rifled barrels are now available and widely used for most shotguns during deer hunting season.
Some states limit the use of firearms to only shotguns for deer season.
Shotguns are available in multiple gauges with 12 gauge and 20 gauge being the most popular for a deer hunt.
A muzzleloader, or front loader is the modern equivalent of the musket. It is a firearm that is loaded by adding gunpowder and a ball or bullet to the barrel or muzzle of the gun. The ball is then tamped down onto the gunpowder and a primer is added to the breach.
You then pull back the hammer when you are ready to shoot. When you pull the trigger, the primer is hit by the firing pin, igniting the gunpowder and sending the projectile towards your target.
Muzzleloaders are considered a primitive weapon and have had their own seasons in some states, but innovations in muzzleloading have made these firearms as accurate as rifles.
Rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders will use either iron sights or a scope for aiming at your target.
3. Learn To Use Your Weapon
This is one of the most important tips for new hunters and it can not be stressed enough.
No matter which weapon you choose to hunt with, make sure that you become proficient with that weapon.
Becoming a good shot with a bow is going to take a lot more time and daily practice then becoming a good shot with a rifle.
Make sure that you put in the time and practice necessary to improve your shooting skills and your ability to make a quick, clean kill when the deer presents you with a shot.
Deer Hunting Safety Tips
Safety needs to be your number one consideration regardless of the weapon that you choose.
Most states will require that you take a hunter safety course before issuing a hunting license, but it never hurts to revisit safety tips.
Here are some safety tips that you should pay attention to:
- Treat every weapon as if it is loaded.
- Do not load your weapon until you are actively hunting.
- Never point a weapon at anything that you do not intend to shoot.
- Always keep the safety on until you are ready to shoot.
- Be 100% sure of your target.
- Know what lies beyond your target.
- Do not use a scope to scan your hunting area, that is what binoculars are for.
4. Where Will You Hunt?
The next step is finding a place to hunt. You basically have two options, hunting on public land or hunting on private land.
Let’s take a look at those two options.
Public Land Hunting
The photo above depicts a typical seen for opening day on public hunting land, which will have the deer running for more secure cover.
Every state has public lands that are available for hunting and many times these parcels of land are managed for deer.
The problem with public land is that, well, it’s public, so anyone can hunt there. That means you may have a lot of company, which is less than ideal, but sometimes it can actually help.
More hunters being in the woods will tend to push deer and keep them on their feet, which increases your chances for seeing deer, depending on how much security cover there is where you hunt.
Despite all of the hunting pressure, good deer are consistently killed on hunting public property by new hunters.
Public Land Deer Hunting Tips For beginners
- Best bet is to get there early. Public land is first come, first served, so do your best to get there early for the prime spots.
- Go where others won’t. Deer will do their best to find areas that are overlooked by other hunters. You should do your best to find these same areas. Sometimes it is a simple matter of walking further than anyone else is willing to go, or it could be a thick mess of brambles that no one wants to enter. That is where you are going to find the heavily hunted deer on public land.
- Talk to other deer hunters. It is usually more advantageous to speak with other hunters that are hunting the same piece of public land and plan your deer hunt so that you are not interfering with each other.
Private Land Deer Hunting Tips for Beginners
Ideally you will have a friend or family member that has private land on which you can deer hunt. If not you can try asking the property owner at a local farm, or larger parcels of land in your area.
The rules are different from state to state, but permission is always required and usually it is written permission on private lands. Be sure to check your state's hunting laws.
The nice part about private hunting land is that you may be the only one with permission to be on the hunting property and if you are not, it is likely that you will know the others that are hunting it and can plan accordingly.
5. Spend Time Scouting Your Hunting Property
Once you know where you will be hunting, it is now time to begin scouting your hunting area.
Scouting your hunting area means studying your the area and putting boots on the ground in order to find deer sign.
Deer sign can be tracks, trails, rubs, scrapes, beds, deer sightings and any other clues that are left behind by the deer.
The best time to scout your area is the post season. All of the deer sign from the previous season is still visible and all of the foliage is down making it easy to see and record your findings.
Scouting Tips For Beginners
- Carry a pen and paper with you when scouting and record everything that you find.
- Print out a map of your hunting area, preferably a topo map and get yourself some different colored push pins. Hang the map on your wall. Each color push pin should represent a different type of deer sign. When you return from scouting your area, transfer what you found onto your wall map.
- Pay attention to where the deer bed and where they are feeding. Then find the trails that they use to get from one place to the other.
- Do this well before the season or after the season, because the deer will know when you have gone walking through where they live and may change their patterns as a result. If you must scout during the season wear scent free rubber boots to help hide the fact that you were there.
- Set up trail cameras to determine when and how many deer are using a certain trail. Cellular cameras are best because you do not have to go into the woods to check the camera.
Use These scouting tips and you will begin to see patterns of deer behavior that will lead you to the best places to intercept the deer.
6. Essential Deer Hunting Gear For Beginners
How much hunting gear you need is a personal decision, but there is some essential gear, besides your weapon that every beginner hunter should have.
Let’s have a look.
Tree Stand or Deer Blind
The best way for a beginner to successfully harvest a deer is going to be from a tree stand or deer blind.
It is much easier to fool a deer’s senses when you are in a stationary position and somewhat concealed.
We recommend that you start with a climbing stand. They are easy to learn how to use and because you can take the stand with you in and out of the woods, they can be used in different places without needing multiple stands.
Tree Stand Safety Harness
One of the most important deer hunting tips for beginners that we can convey is to never leave the ground without wearing a tree stand safety harness.
There are far too many hunters that are seriously injured or killed every year in falls from tree stands. This can be 100% prevented by wearing a hunting safety harness.
You should have a good pair of boots that are used only for hunting so that you don’t leave unnecessary human scent in the woods.
This is more important for bow hunters than it is for gun hunters, but it is best to follow this tip for both.
Our favorite hunting boots for bowhunters are knee high rubber boots from Muck Boots. We also wear these for gun hunting, but some gun hunters prefer a more traditional boot like the Danner hunting boots.
We consider a good pair of hunting binoculars to be essential for any deer hunter and that includes beginners.
Binoculars gather light and will help you to see in low light conditions when deer are most active.
Please don’t use a scope to determine what the movement is in the brush.
It is not safe!
Only use your hunting binoculars to look closely at anything of which you are unsure.
As a beginner, you may want to get a pair of cheap hunting binoculars to start with.
We almost didn’t include hunting clothing because you could just use the clothing that you have as long as you follow some scent control tips.
If you do want to get some hunting clothes, we would suggest some good quality undergarments to go along with some fleece pants and jacket. Add in a set of rain gear and you will have all the camouflage clothing that you need.
7. Types Of Deer Hunting
There are basically two types of deer hunting. One is stand hunting and one is still hunting, there is also spot and stalking deer, but that is used more for mule deer, so we will not cover it here.
Let’s take a look at each of these.
However, it could just be you leaning up against a tree or sitting on a rock, which would not be advisable for bowhunting, but could work for gun hunting.
You find a place where you expect the deer will move through and you set up downwind of the area and sit quietly to wait for the deer to show.
The term still hunting is a little misleading because it sounds like you are being still, when in fact, you are not.
Still hunting is the term for moving very slowly through the woods, often stopping every step to look around, while trying to spot the deer before they spot you.
This is a very difficult hunting method because the deer are so good at detecting movement.
8. Tree Stand Hunting Tips for Beginners
Tree stands can greatly increase your chances of consistent success when deer hunting.
There are 3 different types of tree stands:
- Climbing tree stands which consist of a platform and climber and are used to self climb up the tree.
- Hang on stands that require climbing sticks or steps to access the stand.
- ladder stands that are a platform and ladder all in one.
Let’s take a look at some tree stand tips for beginners.
- Never leave the ground without wearing a hunting safety harness.
- Practice at home with your tree stand before using it in the woods. Become very comfortable with your stand.
- Purposefully “fall” out of your tree stand while you are only a few feet off the ground and with a helper present, so that you can learn how to recover and get back into your tree stand.
- Your treestand should be between 15 and 25 feet off the ground when hunting. Any lower and you begin to lose all of the advantages of hunting out of a tree stand, like being above a deer’s line of sight. Any higher than that and you begin to have problems with shot angles. This is especially true for bowhunters.
You can find more tree stand tips by visiting our Deer Stand Placement Strategy and Setup Tips.
9. Ground Blind Hunting Tips for Beginners
Ground blinds can be a great way for a beginner to get started deer hunting, but there are a few things that you should know first.
- Ground blinds need to be set up long before the season begins because they are intrusive in the deer’s habitat.
- Ground blinds will be much more effective if they are “brushed in” or camouflaged with native limbs and branches from the area.
- Always set up down wind from where the deer are coming from.
- Never shoot through mesh windows with archery equipment even if they say you can. Put the mesh windows down.
- Wear dark clothing and sit towards the back of the blind and the deer will not see you.
10. Still Hunting Tips For Beginners
Even though still hunting is more of an advanced hunting tactic, there are a lot of new hunters that are going to want to try it, so we are including some tips here.
Still hunting is not recommended for bow hunters, but can be a great way to harvest deer with a firearm.
- Always spend more time stopped and scanning the area with binoculars than moving. 100 yards in an hour would be a lot of ground to cover when still hunting.
- When you are scanning the area don’t look for a whole deer. Look for pieces of deer, like an ear or a leg. Also, in the woods most lines are vertical, running up and down, like the trees. Any horizontal line deserves a closer look. Many times they will turn out to be the line of a deer’s back.
Best Still Hunting Tip For Beginners
The best tip for still hunting for beginners is to use a two man still hunt. This is when you and a hunting buddy are still hunting out of sight of each other.
Both seasoned hunters need to know the property well and you should both be wearing plenty of blaze orange for safety.
You then proceed to still hunt parallel to each other, but a couple of hundred yards apart.
Many times, one of you will push a deer that you never saw and that deer will escape right into the sights of the other hunter.
This is a deadly tactic, but keep in mind that you have to see the deer before it sees you, so spend most of your time stopped and scanning the area.
11. Practice Scent Control
Proper scent control is so important and it is often overlooked by beginners.
A deer's nose is incredibly adept at detecting danger and identifying anything that doesn't belong in his home range.
It can literally mean the difference between getting those precious seconds that you need for an accurate shot and only seeing a white tail waving at you as your quarry escapes.
Personal Scent Control
You should practice a strict scent control regimen and take every precaution that you can for reducing your human odor before entering the deer woods. Here are some scent control tips that every hunter should follow.
- Take a shower with unscented soap and shampoo before going hunting.
- Use an unscented deodorant.
- Wash all of your hunting clothes in an unscented detergent.
- Avoid spicy foods during hunting season.
Go here for more scent control tips.
Leaving Scent On The Trail and Things You Touch
You should make every effort to get to your stand or deer blind without crossing the trail that you expect the deer to use. If you do have to cross the trail, try not to step right in the trail and definitely do not touch any branches or leaves around the trail.
I know this sounds extreme, but years of experience have taught us that the deer will smell you!
They will stop and run their nose up and down blades of grass or anything else that you have touched. We have seen this time and time again.
Deer rely heavily on their keen sense of smell and ignoring this will drastically reduce your chances of success.
12. Hunt The Wind
Always pay attention to wind direction.
You must always be hunting downwind from the deer or it will smell you. You can reduce your scent and possibly get closer to the deer when it is downwind, but a mature deer will not tolerate your scent for very long, if at all.
Hunting the wind doesn’t only mean staying downwind of the deer when you see it. It also means staying downwind of the deer on the way to your stand.
You must try to never alert the deer to your presence with your smell.
You should try to hunt higher ground and avoid creek bottoms. Creek bottoms are notorious for swirling winds and it is very difficult to remain undetected.
You also need to pay attention to constantly changing wind thermals.
In the morning, wind thermals tend to rise, taking your scent with them and in the evening thermals drop and so does your scent.
13. Best Time To Hunt Deer
Is there a best time to hunt deer? You bet there is, but it all depends on the time of year and some other factors.
Let’s take a look at those factors.
Best Time Of Day To Hunt Deer
Deer are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk under normal conditions, but there are circumstances in which they will be active during midday hours.
Hunting in the morning typically involves trying to intercept the deer on its way from the feeding area to the bedding area.
This typically means not hunting fields and open areas because you will spook deer feeding there when you try to get to your stand in the dark.
Try not to disturb food sources when hunting in the morning.
Midday can be a great time to hunt.
Here are three midday hunting tips for new deer hunters that can payoff .
- Hunt midday during the peak rut - Testosterone driven bucks will be on their feet looking for a doe in heat during all hours, including midday. Focus your hunting on the downwind side of doe bedding areas. This is where the buck traffic will be.
- Hunt midday during firearms season - Firearms season usually sees a huge amount of hunters entering the deer’s habitat in the early morning. Most hunters will leave the woods before lunch and return later in the afternoon to hunt the evening. Deer become accustomed to this and pattern the hunters. They will move during midday because the other hunters have left. This presents a terrific opportunity for the hunter that stays during midday.
- Hunt midday before or after a major storm - Deer often hole up in thick cover or evergreens during a storm, but before a storm they will feed heavily in preparation for a prolonged time of not eating. Once the storm passes, the deer will be ready to feed again regardless of the time of day. If it is midday, they will be actively seeking food.
Hunting in the evening involves trying to intercept the deer on their way from bedding areas to feeding areas.
The closer you are set up to the bedding areas, the earlier you will see deer. However, don’t get too close or you will spook the deer and probably not see them at all.
Best Time Of The Season To Hunt Deer
We have divided the deer season into three parts. The early season, the rut and the late season. Let’s take at look at each of these to determine if there is a best time of the season to hunt.
Hunting Early Season
Hunting in the early season is usually limited to bowhunting and it can be a great time to be in the woods.
The deer are very predictable this time of year. They can be seen using the same food sources, typically fields, day after day and with very little human pressure, they will continue using this pattern.
A great tactic this time of year is to scan the fields late in the day and take note of where the deer are entering. Then simply set up downwind of that spot before they typically get there.
Hunting The Rut
In our opinion, this is the best time to hunt big whitetail deer, especially mature bucks. The rut is the deer mating season and some mature bucks will throw caution to the wind and cover miles looking for a doe in heat.
On morning rut phase hunts you should be in your deer stand well before first light so that the woods have a chance to settle down and return to normal before legal shooting light.
Best Rut Locations
Pro Tip - When hunting the peak rut, stay all day and hunt pinch points and downwind of doe bedding areas if you want to kill a trophy buck.
A trophy buck will use the natural funnels to get from place to place and they will scent check the doe bedding areas in search of a hot doe. You should be waiting for them in these testosterone driven rut phase locations.
Find the doe traffic and you will find the bucks throughout the different rut phases.
Hunting Late Season
Late season hunting usually revolves around food sources again. The rut is over and the deer now need to put on weight in order to survive the winter.
The best tip for late season is to focus your hunting around the cold fronts. The deer need to eat in order to stay warm. They will come into the fields to eat early in the late season in order to stay warm during the long winter nights.
14. Hunt The Rut If You Can
The rut, which is the deer mating season, is the most exciting time to be in the woods. This is your best chance at harvesting a mature buck.
This is the time to take vacation time and spend all day in the woods. Pack a lunch, do whatever it takes to stay comfortable and put your time in.
Big bucks are on their feet and covering ground. They could be coming by you any minute of any day.
One of the best tips that we can offer is hunt the rut to increase your odds of seeing mature buck daytime visits!
15. Deer Calling Tips For Beginners
Deer are surprisingly vocal creatures and have a somewhat sophisticated method of communication that you can use to your advantage as a deer hunter.
There are four main deer calling tactics that are used when hunting deer.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
Bucks make a grunting sound that is used to communicate different things.
It is normally used to find other deer, but it is also used when tending or trailing a doe in heat.
You can use a grunt tube to make the same sounds.
Making a simple grunt sound will play on a buck's curiosity and he will investigate to see where the other buck is.
Making a tending grunt sound will lead a buck to believe that there is another buck nearby trailing a doe in heat.
Here is a video of a buck grunting.
Does make a bleating sound, normally when communicating with fawns. However they will also make a louder, longer bleat that almost sounds like a bawl when they are in heat.
Experienced hunters usually use the doe in heat sound when hunting. It is most often made with a can that is inverted to make the sound, but can also be made with a grunt tube.
Hunters use this to draw in bucks, but surprisingly, we have also called in many does with this call.
Watch this 10 pointer that would not respond to a grunt call come right into a doe bleat.
Rattling consists of banging and meshing two deer antlers together to simulate two bucks sparring or fighting.
Bucks are curious about who is fighting in their neighborhood and will come to investigate.
This is a great hunting tactic around the rut, when bucks are full of testosterone and looking to defend their territory or steal the doe from two bucks fighting over her.
Fawn in Distress Call
This one is a little less well known, but it can work wonders for a beginner that wants to harvest a doe. It rarely works on bucks.
It only works during the late summer and very early fall because it plays on the mother’s instinct to protect her fawns.
The call sounds like a fawn screaming in distress and the does will actually come running frantically right to you looking for the fawn in distress.
Her is a video using a fawn in distress call.
16. Tips For Using Attractants
Some states allow for the use of attractants for deer hunting, but not all do, so check your local game laws to be sure it is legal in your area.
Probably the most used attractant for deer is doe in heat urine. This comes in a small bottle and the best way to use it is to soak a rag and tie it to a stick.
Use the stick to drag the rag on the ground on the way to your stand. When you get to your stand, put the stick out in front of you where you will have an accurate shot at the deer.
The theory is that if a buck crosses your path, he will follow the scent right to the stick.
Another way to use attractants is to make a mock scrape.
A scrape is a pawed area on the ground, usually with a licking branch above that deer urinate and defecate in.
It is a kind of scent post that they all use to leave their scent in for one another.
We can take advantage of this by making our own scrape, called a mock scrape, that the deer will all begin using on a regular basis and then hunt over that scrape.
You can learn more by visiting How To Make a Mock Scrape.
Here is a video showing how to make a mock scrape.
17. Preparing for the Shot
We have now covered a lot and it is time to prepare for the shot.
This is where all that shooting practice earlier will pay off. Confidence is the key to making a good shot and the only way to be confident is to have made many good shots over and over, even if it is at a target.
Here are some tips on preparing for the shot.
- Wait for a good, open shot. Never take a marginal shot at a deer, it will not pay off.
- Remember to breathe, and pull the trigger or release as you are exhaling.
- Make sure that the deer is broadside or quartering away slightly.
Calming Yourself From “Buck Fever”
After all of your preparation and excitement it is very common to have a rush of adrenaline upon having the opportunity to shoot a deer.
This rush of adrenaline is referred to as buck fever, although it happens with both bucks and does.
The symptoms are shaking uncontrollably and erratic breathing. The best way to calm yourself is to control your breathing.
Try and take deep, steady breaths and slow down your heart rate.
The rush of adrenaline can be debilitating, but you can be rest assured that it get better with more experience.
Here is a video showing what buck fever is like!
18. Where To Shoot A Deer
In order to know where to shoot a deer, you have to know where the deer’s vital organs are, or the kill zone, so let's take a look at deer biology.
Your goal as a hunter is to kill the deer as quickly and efficiently as possible and that is best accomplished with a double lung shot.
That means that the deer must be broadside or slightly quartering away so that you can put an arrow or a bullet through both lungs.
Here is a great video on shot placement.
19. What To Do After The Shot
Okay, so you made the shot!
Let the deer run!
Watch the Deer Closely
This is very important! Watch the deer closely after the shot.
What was the deer’s reaction when it was hit? This can tell you a tremendous amount of information about the shot.
Did the deer mule kick and run off wildly? (good sign)
Did the deer hump up, run a little, then walk off slowly? (could be liver hit or worse)
Also, mark in your mind exactly where you last saw the deer. You are going to have a rush of adrenaline and it is going to be difficult to control your thoughts, but you need to remember these things in order to successfully find your deer.
Give The Deer Time
Unless the deer is down and dead within sight, it is extremely important to give the deer time and here is why.
A mortally wounded deer will tend to lay down and expire. If you go after that deer too soon, it will get up and run.
This is the number one reason for lost deer kills.
If the deer is not down and dead within sight, give the deer at least an hour if you think it was a good shot.
If you think it was a marginal shot, give the deer at least 5-6 hours and more if it was a bad shot.
20. How to Blood Trail a Deer
Okay, you have waited the allotted time and you are ready to blood trail your deer.
The first thing that you are going to do is go to the exact spot where it was standing when you shot it and look for sign.
If you were bowhunting, you are looking for your arrow, which will tell you a lot based on the blood on the arrow. Bubbles in the blood means lung shot and that is what we are looking for.
You are also looking for blood on the ground, hair, or any other clues as to how good the shot was.
From here we are going to start following the blood trail. You should always follow blood trails from where the deer was shot and not from where you last saw the deer because there is a lot that you can learn between those two spots.
Sometimes a wounded deer will not bleed much right away. In this case, most of the bleeding is inside the deer and you may have to go to where you last saw the deer.
Remember to proceed slowly and look at every leaf and blade of grass for any sign of blood.
You may even have to get on your hands and knees to closely inspect spots on the ground.
With any luck, you will follow the trail right to your deer.
Mark The Last Blood That you Found
This is an important tip for beginners when blood trailing your deer. Carry a roll of toilet paper in your pack and use pieces to mark the last blood that you found on the trail. It is easily visible as you are looking for more blood and it disintegrates quickly so if you miss some when you are picking it up, it is not that big a deal.
I’ve Lost The Blood Trail. Now What?
If you lose the blood trail, go back to the last blood, which you marked with toilet paper and start again, being even more careful and deliberate this time.
If you still can’t find the blood trail after numerous attempts, it is time to change tactics.
- Deer will tend to go downhill when wounded, so look in that direction.
- Deer will tend to seek out water when wounded, so look in that direction.
- If you still can’t find blood, start making ever widening circles, while looking closer for any signs of blood.
If you have exhausted all blood trailing options, it is time to get some helpers and grid search for your deer.
Assign everyone a grid and search thoroughly for any sign of blood or a dead deer.
At this point, if your state allows, it would be a great time to call in a tracking dog. You can find these online. Facebook hunting groups are a great place to find deer tracking dogs.
21. Field Dressing Deer
You have found your deer! Congratulations! Now it is time to field dress your first deer.
Field dressing is a fancy term for removing all of the entrails from body cavity of the deer in order to allow it to cool faster and make it easier to get it out of the woods.
There are plenty of youtube videos to teach you how to field dress a deer, so I am not going to go into that here, but I will include some field dressing tips.
Field Dressing Tips For Beginners
- Carry disposable elbow length rubber gloves. They make field dressing much cleaner.
- Buy the best deer hunting knife that you can afford.
- Get help. It is much easier with two people, especially your first time.
- Be extremely careful when working inside the body cavity with a sharp knife. It is very easy to cut yourself.
- If you are bowhunting, make sure that the broadhead is not still in the deer. Again, it is very easy to cut yourself.
22. How to Get Deer Out Of The Woods
Your deer is now field dressed and it is time to get it out of the woods!
This is much easier if you have help, but you can certainly do it on your own.
The most common way is to grab an antler and start dragging. If it is a doe, then you can use the rope that you used to secure your safety harness to the tree. Put the rope around the deer’s neck and start dragging.
While this will work just fine, there are easier ways to get your deer out of the woods.
One of the simplest ways is to use a plastic sled that is used for sledding in the snow. Just put your deer in the sled and drag the sled across the ground.
If you want to get a little fancier, ice fishing sleds make great deer sleds.
23. Caring For Your Deer Before Processing
Most hunters like to hang their deer for a period of time before processing. How long it can hang depends on how cool the weather is, or if you have a cooler to hang it in.
I like to hang my deer outside immediately if the temperature allows and put a stick in the cavity to hold it open. This allows it to cool quickly from the inside out.
Remember to hang your deer and other wild game high enough so that predators or the neighborhood dog can’t get it.
24. Processing Deer
Processing your deer means to butcher it. Cutting the deer into steaks, chops, roasts and more. Then packaging it for the freezer.
When it comes to processing your deer, you have two options:
- Process the deer yourself.
- Take the deer to a processor that does wild game and pay to have it done.
If you decide to process your own meat, as a beginner, you should find someone with experience processing deer or other wild game and work alongside them to learn the ropes with your first deer.
If you don’t have anyone to teach you how to butcher a deer, then you really should pay a processor to do it for you.
25. Enjoying The Bounty Of Your Harvest
Deer meat, or venison as it is called, is very tasty and also one of the best red meats that you can eat because it is high in nutrition and low in fat.
A typical deer will yield approximately 40% of its field dressed weight in boneless venison.
So a deer that weighs 150 pounds field dressed will yield around 60 pounds of boneless venison.
Your deer can supply you and your family with an excellent source of protein throughout the winter.
You can use venison just like you would use beef, although it is much lower in fat, so it will dry out quickly if it is overcooked.
Here are some of the best venison recipes that we use on a consistent basis for game meat.
26. Find A Mentor
If you listen to none of our other tips for new hunters, please listen to this one.
The absolute best thing that you could do as a beginner deer hunter is to find a mentor that will take you hunting and teach you all of the things that we have gone over in this article.
Most mentors are friends or family that deer hunt, but we realize that not everybody has that anymore.
Luckily, there are still options.
Contact your local fish and game clubs. Explain to them that you are a beginner deer hunter and you don’t have anyone to help teach you. Ask them if they know someone that will help mentor you. Fish and game clubs are passionate about helping to promote our sport and keep people involved so that the sport grows. The last thing that want to happen is for a new hunter to get discouraged and quit hunting.
Another option is to join facebook hunting groups in your area and ask for help learning the ropes there. We have found most hunters to be very responsive and willing to share hunting information with beginners.
The 26 deer hunting tips for beginners above will help take you from a newbie all the way through to a well educated and experienced deer hunter.
Our hope is that it will reach thousands of potential new hunters and encourage them to get involved in our sport in order to preserve the traditions of our heritage that we hold so close to our hearts.
If you are one of the beginners that benefitted from our tips and you now are an experienced hunter, please share your knowledge with other beginners and let’s keep this tradition alive for generations to come.
And please remember to take a kid hunting.