25 Deer Hunting Tips for Success

You’ve read all the ways to kill a good buck. Here are some tips guaranteed to have you eating “tag soup” instead of venison this winter.

If you’ve spent enough time in the whitetail woods, you know by now that there is no such thing as a “sure bet” technique, stand set-up, or secret to guarantee you a crack at a mature buck this year. A wise man once said we all make mistakes, but if you learn from those mistakes, they can be a positive in the long run. The following whitetail hunting screw-ups are classics repeated by countless deer hunters each fall.

  1. Who Needs a Flashlight?

    Believe it or not, there are deer hunters who are, literally, afraid of the dark. They won’t walk to their stands before first light, and they make sure they leave so they can get back to the truck before a light is needed. Considering that deer are crepuscular, meaning they see best in the dim light of dawn and dusk – and mature bucks prefer moving very early and late or in the dark, don’t you think you need to be in the treestand then, too?

  2. I’m Bored, so Maybe I’ll “still hunt” a While

    Nothing will screw up a prime area for standers than recklessly “still hunting” when you’re bored, tired, or cold. Still hunting does work, but it demands all your attention and abilities, and besides, it’s best when the deer are up and moving – also the best time to be on stand. Pick a method, and stick with it.

  3. Don’t Scout, Either Before or During, the Rut

    You can’t shoot a mature buck if you don’t know where one is living. That takes scouting, which takes time, which none of us has enough of. Pre-season scouting should uncover big tracks, old buck rub lines and deer scrapes, bedding thickets, and travel routes between bedding areas and feeding areas. During the season, scouting on-the-go, then hunting over hot sign that day, is perhaps the best way of all to get a shot at a big deer. If you insist on hunting the same old stand “just because,” you could end up eating nothing but tag soup.

  4. I Think I’ll Hunt the “Monster Stand” Again this Fall

    Yeah, we killed a book buck off that stand back when Bush 41 was president. It should be good. Except that is hasn’t been. Set your stands based on recent scouting and in areas that have produced well within the past couple of years, but no more, or you risk getting lots of reading in, but little shooting.

    Deer Track
    If the old “Monster Stand” isn’t producing, perhaps it is time to get down and find a new spot where the action is hot right now.
  5. Don’t Repair Equipment Before Heading Afield

    The hunting season is no time to take the squeak out of your treestand, find out your flashlight batteries are dead, or wonder where your face mask is. The devil is in the details, as they say. Make sure you take care of them before opening day.

  6. My (Bow, Rifle, Muzzleloader, Handgun) is Always Dead-on

    Go ahead, don’t sight it in before your hunt. When Big Toby comes cruising by and you can’t believe you missed, blame it on buck fever. It can’t be the weapon. Until you check it later and find it is off by a foot.

  7. More is Always Better

    If a little of this magic scent stuff is good, the whole bottle should really draw ‘em in from miles around. Fact is, a deer’s nose is so sensitive it can smell a drop or two of scent plenty far off. Too much scent will spook it, as sure as the sun rises in the east.

  8. Don’t Practice Shooting

    Well before the hunting season is the time to try out a new firearm, then carefully sight it in with the exact ammo you’ll be hunting with. When that trophy buck comes strolling past and the jitters take over, you don’t want to have to even think about whether or not the gun shoots true or not.

  9. Don’t Set Your Treestand in a Concealed Area

    Sure the leaves are off the trees now, but that’s the main reason you have to take care not to be sticking out like a sore thumb when on stand. Whenever possible, set up in small clusters of trees and off the skyline, so that it will be tough for a sharp-eyed doe to pick you off. If you think you know which way the bucks might be traveling from, then set your stand up behind the trunk so that it will give you additional cover. And you should also set your stands as high as is practical.

  10. Assume You Know More than the Hunting Guide or Outfitter

    Sure, you’ve hunted whitetails for 20 years. But that’s back home. This is new country, and part of the reason you are paying a guide/outfitter is because of his expertise both in knowing where the deer are and how to best hunt them in his own back yard. If you don’t trust him, you shouldn’t have booked the hunt.

  11. Don’t Hunt Funnels

    Bucks are tough to pattern during the deer rut simply because they are constantly on the move in search of estrous does. The best place to find them during the day is in a funnel located between a known doe bedding area and known doe feeding area, or between two known doe bedding areas. It’s really as simple as that. Too many bowhunters insist on hunting scrapes, or field edges, or rub lines – all good choices at times – at the cost of hunting funnels.

    3D Deer Target
    You’ve waited all year for the one chance at a big deer, and you missed because you didn’t practice enough? Are you kidding me??
  12. In Farm Country, Forget About Wind Direction, Because These Deer are Used to Smelling People All the Time

    OK, maybe they are. That doesn’t mean they like it, or come a-runnin’ every time they smell some human B.O. The smell of diesel from a tractor isn’t nearly as threatening as how you smell sitting in a tree. Always watch the wind.

  13. Don’t Worry About Scent Control

     hunters used to think that all those scent-eliminating and controlling products were a joke -- until they seriously tested them, both in the field and under strict laboratory conditions. When used as advertised most work quite well. Never compromise your scent-control system, which should include regularly laundering outwear in unscented detergent, showering before each stand shift with unscented soap and shampoo, and spraying yourself and your gear liberally with a scent-eliminating spray just prior to climbing into your stand.

  14. Be Sure to Check in with Your Buddies Every Hour, for “Safety’s Sake"

    ” It’s popular for hunters to carry two-way radios in the treestandthese days (where legal, of course.) And they are great, both for safety and for calling the meat wagon once someone has a deer down. But the last thing you need is someone to radio you in to come back for lunch and spook one of the biggest deer you have ever seen in your life away. Stories and jokes are for the campfire after dark.

  15. Don’t Hunt Doe Pockets

    When hunting the rut, estrous does equal bucks. By hunting known doe pockets, you’ll be in an area that mature bucks will frequent as they seek out does that have just come into estrous. That means afternoons on or near greenfields or other crops, or mornings along acorn ridges or near bedding thickets. Here’s where your scouting will pay off in spades.

  16. Squirrels Have a Way of Decieving Hunters

    They hear squirels making ruckus all the time, and they don't think anything of it. REMAIN ALERT. One of these days it's not going to be a squirel making the noise, but an eight point buck. 

  17. Don’t Use Calls or Scents

    The pre-rut and rut are when calling really shines. Now is the time to break out those grunt and doe bleat calls, as well as your rattling bags, boxes, and antlers, and have at it. Too many bowhunters continue to believe that sitting passively on stand is always their best plan of attack. That is a popular way to hunt, but there are times when the judicious use of calls can turn the tables in your favor. The same is true of deer attractant scents. Using deer urine in mock deer scrapes or along access trails leading past your shooting lanes can, at times, bring bucks past that you would not have had an opportunity at. And don’t forget decoys, which when used under the right conditions can drive rutting bucks wild. While calling, using scents, and deer decoys are not a sure thing, when used with the season, conditions, and local hunting pressure in mind, they can be real tag-fillers.

    Deer Hunting Weather
    Check the local Weather Channel reports every morning and evening during a hunt for weather changes that can affect how and where you hunt that day.
  18. The “Old Folks MTV””

    A buddy once called The Weather Channel the “Old Folk’s MTV.” Pretty hilarious – except that it illustrates how important it is to check the weather daily. Changes in wind direction and intensity, approaching storm fronts, and air temperature changes directly affect how and where you hunt on any given day. If you’re not on top of this, you’re doomed.

  19. I’m Hungry

    Bring food to snack on and plenty of liquids, and plan on staying in the woods all day. This is especially crucial during the deer rut, when bucks are moving all day long – and sometimes moving best from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. It’s a numbers game – the more hours you put in on stand, the better your chances of seeing the buck you want. You don’t need to go back to camp for a nap.

  20. The Magazine Said Sight in 3 Inches High at 100 Yards

    Unless you are hunting an area where “way out there” shots are common – the large grain fields of the West and Canada, southern beanfields, the large agricultural fields of the Midwest, or power line right-of-ways or Texas senderos, when shooting most standard whitetail cartridges it is generally best to sight Old Betsy dead-on at 200 yards. The most common miss is to shoot too high, and with most whitetails shot at under 100 yards, sighting in high is just going to compound the problem.

  21. I Love My Hunting Area

    We all prefer hunting areas with which we have become familiar and have had past success. But what happens if one year you lose your hunting land, or the deer herd takes a nosedive due to disease, or the farmer changes his crop rotation, or the land gets sold? Hunting season is not the time to be seeking out a new hunting spot. Smart deer hunters are constantly and proactively look for new places to hunt.

  22. I Don’t Need These Heavy Boots or Big Jacket Today

    You may think you caught a nice day in the late season, but being unprepared for the cold is the quickest way to drive a hunter out of his stand and into camp than anything I know. Always bring enough clothes, heavy enough boots, and a big hat and gloves for a late-season hunt in cold country. And don’t forget those disposable chemical handwarmers, either; they are cheap at 10 times the price!

  23. Binoculars? Heck, I’ll Just Crank up My Scope

    Not only is this dangerous, but waving a rifle around while trying to find a deer in a turned-up scope is a great way to have every deer in three counties spot your movement. Always remember – binoculars are for spotting, the rifle and scope are for killing. They are not interchangeable in this regard.

  24. I Will Never Wear a Safety Harness in My Treetand, it just Gets in the Way

    There is no better way to cripple or kill yourself than to hunt from an elevated stand without wearing a fall restraint device of some kind at all times. Never hunt a tree stand or platform without one. Period.

  25. I Know it All

    The deer hunter, gun or bow, who thinks he has it all figured out is one of two things – incredibly naïve and inexperienced, or completely stupid. Regardless of the tireless work of wildlife biologists or the articles and videos and seminars and cable TV shows, we will never know it all when it comes to deer behavior. The more knowledge you have, the better hunter you’ll be and the more you will enjoy your days afield. Never stop striving to learn. When it comes to deer hunters, you can teach even the old salts some new tricks!

 

 

 

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