Whenever you come back from a successful deer hunt, you have every right to be swelling with pride and beaming from ear-to-ear. While there’s certainly a knack to fishing, coyote hunting, and turkey hunting, most hunters will agree that hunting deer is one of the most challenging pursuits you can choose to undertake.
With that in mind, we figured you could use every little bit of help you could get. Here are our top 10 deer hunting tips to increase your odds of harvesting a trophy buck:
- USGS Topographical Maps – Do your homework and use USGS topographical maps to gain an overview of the area where you will be hunting. Pay particular attention to possible travel corridors and choke points.
- Google Earth – Once you have an overview, use Google Earth to view a real-time satellite image of the region. Look for patches of dense foliage that might serve as bedding areas, clearings and agricultural fields that provide food sources, and bands of foliage and/or fence lines that may be used as travel corridors.
- Scouting – Whenever possible, do your scouting well before the season opens so that you will not alert the deer to your presence immediately prior to the opening of the season.
- Bedding Areas – When scouting your intended hunting area, the first thing you should do is locate areas of dense foliage that may serve as bedding areas and then look for trails leading to and from these areas to likely food sources. Set up your stand or blind along one of the trails near the bedding area.
- Travel Corridors and Choke Points – Follow the deer trails from the bedding areas and food sources to locate travel corridors (such as narrow bands of foliage) and choke points (such as creek crossings) where the deer are forced to travel in order to remain unseen. Set up your stand or ground blind at one of these points.
- Setting Up Your Stand – The elevated position of tree stands can provide great sight, but some may find a ground stand to be more comfortable and provide better shelter. It doesn’t matter where your stand is, but make sure that it is well concealed, you can get in and out of it quietly, and you have clear shooting lanes. If you have to clear vegetation for unobstructed views, make sure to do so well before you plan on hunting. Freshly cut timber can spook deer as they learn to associate the smell with human activity.
- Eliminate Your Human Odor – Most deer hunters are well aware that deer have an extremely keen sense of smell. However, many hunters are not aware that moving air acts in the same manner as moving water and that it swirls and eddies around obstructions. Therefore, it is imperative that you eliminate your human scent. You have to become invisible to the deer. This can be achieved by using a shower kit before dressing in combination with camouflage clothing lined with activated charcoal and/or leaves and dirt from around your stand.
- Carry Odor Eliminator – Hunters are always cautious at the start of the day and spray plenty of odor eliminator before heading into the bush. However, as you perspire, your scent will build, and you should be spraying yourself down as you move locations, paying particular attention to your hair and hat.
- Attractant Scents, Calls, and Decoys – While doe-in-estrus scents work well during the short period immediately prior to, and during, the rut, they do not work well early or late in the season. To draw bucks to your stand, you should consider using a dominant buck scent instead during these periods as well as during the rut. Also, in order to further pique a buck’s curiosity, you should combine attractant scents with both calls and rattling to create the illusion of a buck calling to a doe (or vice versa) or two bucks fighting for dominance. But be aware that when answering such calls to action, a deer expects to see another deer when they arrive on the scene and not doing so can trigger their instinct that something is not right about the situation. Therefore, you should also consider deploying a deer decoy in order to focus a buck’s attention and draw them close so that you can make a clean shot.
- Have Patience –. You need to really relax your pace and be patient out on the hunt. If you feel the itch to move to a new location, pick a time that you’re going to stay put for, and stick to it. Deer hunting is a marathon, not a sprint.
So, while there are numerous other tricks to successfully hunt deer, the ten hunting tips listed above are the most important ones for any beginner and using them will undoubtedly greatly increase your odds of filling both your tags and your freezer.