Deer hunting is an art form; like any other, the better hunters continually strive to improve their art. Being the best you can be takes dedication, a thirst for knowledge, and self-improvement.
Ask experienced hunters how to be a better deer hunter, and the majority will mention the same things. You see, it’s not about doing things differently when hunting but about how close you can get to perfecting the existing ones. These things will generally work in tandem with each other.
I’ll mention essential things that every good whitetail hunter knows, and by applying them well, you’ll enjoy the same advantage smart deer hunters have when practicing your art.
Make an Ally of the Wind
I’m sure some deer hunter once told you to beat the wind. Was it good advice?
In essence, you’ll never beat the wind. You’ll become a better deer hunter by learning to gauge the wind and make it an ally instead of an enemy.
It would be best to determine your ideal stand placement by listening to what the wind tells you. Understanding the wind direction and how to use it is a primary contributing factor in turning good deer hunters into great ones. Wind direction also contributes to controlling your scent; we all know how vital scent control is when trying to bag a deer.
In deer hunting terms, there’s more to the direction of the wind than just which way it’s blowing. There are several factors that a better deer hunter will take into account before choosing the perfect stand locations for hunts.
Prior research into where and when you locate deer in your hunting area means you can consider wind direction when setting up your blind or stand. Understand the region’s feeding areas and water sources, and locate the best sites for decent shot opportunities. Then ask your ally, the wind, to help you and hope it listens.
You’ll base your ideal stand locations on several factors, but an important one is the direction of the wind. From your newly-found knowledge of the area, you’ll have a few locations in mind, and the wind direction on the day of the hunt will determine your choice.
You will want to be downwind, meaning the wind blows towards you from the deer’s location. This means your scent won’t be carried toward the deer, which is vital. A deer’s nose will pick up any foreign scents immediately, and your hunting success rate will significantly decrease. It is imperative to control your odor, even when your wind ally plays its part.
Control Your Unnatural Scents and Body Odor
Learning to control scent when deer hunting is not only about spending big bucks for a scent eliminator to help bag a big buck. Sure, it’ll help, but you should be mindful of the other ways to minimize your scent while hunting deer. There are so many different tips to control your odor, and we will cover the most important ones.
Bath or shower on the morning of the hunt
Mama Bear or Papa Bear might love how you smell after you shower with your deodorized soap, but mommy and daddy deer certainly won’t. Use a scent-free soap in the shower in the morning before you hit the hunting trail; note, I said in the morning, not the previous night.
When you climb out afterward, you’ll be better off drip-drying than using that soft, aromatic towel that’s come straight out of the linen closet too! Prepare a ‘hunting’ towel before time so that you’re good to go and smelling like, well, nothing.
Like your towel, do the same for your hunting clothing. If you don’t have a scent-free detergent, use baking soda. I’ll get your clothes clean and smelling fresh as, yes, you’ve got the idea now, absolutely nothing.
Be mindful of what you wear
Mastering scent control means being almost obsessive in your attention to detail. Your hunting clothes must be suited to the weather conditions you’ll be hunting in. The best way to start this process is to find something in which you won’t sweat. Body odor is the scent you most want to avoid giving off if you’re going whitetail hunting.
When walking a long way to your stand location, you’ll make a mistake if you wear too much clothing. Remember you’re carrying your hunting gear, and you’re likely to sweat, even if the weather’s chilly. On top of this, you’ll regret sweating once you sit in the stand and your body temperature drops. It won’t be pleasant!
Rather dress for the walk. Even if you’re cold, you’ll get warmer as you walk. When you reach the stand locations, you and your fellow hunters can layer up and feel more comfortable. Another thing this method prevents is alerting any deer in the vicinity as you’re negotiating your entry route.
Scent control clothing and other items
Most hunting clothing retailers stock scent-control clothing and other items, so a bit of browsing will go a long way. Considering your body is important, but you don’t want your scent wafting through the fresh air at all, so also consider covering your face and head.
There are also scent eliminator sprays that you can use to spray down your clothes, boots, and backpack before starting your hike. Additionally, you can buy specially-designed hunting deodorants like ScentBlocker and Nose Jammer. These will keep you fresh and less likely to sweat on the way to the hunting zone.
Watch what you eat before hunting deer
You’ll fast become a better deer hunter if you avoid a hearty greasy breakfast before you embark on the hunt. This is also part of taking scent control seriously, as the smell of fried bacon, sausage, and grits won’t endear you to a deer’s nose. Instead, stick with fruit or something else natural, like granola and yogurt.
Also, be aware that lighting up a Marlboro on the way won’t add you to the list of history’s smart deer hunters.
Perfect Your Knowledge of the Terrain and Land Features
Terrain and land features are unique to every hunting location. The more preparation you can do as a deer hunter to familiarize yourself with these, the better your chances are of shooting a whitetail. There are times when you’ll hunt blind, meaning that you won’t have an opportunity to scout ahead for the deer hunt. More often than not, you’ll be able to do so.
Advanced scouting techniques
There are several methods to scout for deer, but most deer hunters prefer not to be obtrusive in the deer’s habitat. If you can perfect advanced scouting techniques, you’ll gain an advantage the best hunters have over their prey, as you’ll be able to find deer more efficiently during the hunt.
It’s a considerable advantage while hunting to know already where deer bed down and where they eat and take in water. If you can identify the deer sign, you’ll easier be able to identify their movement patterns.
The deer sign includes their beds, tracks, scat, rub lines, scrape lines, and which vegetation they’ve browsed. From there, you can figure out the normal deer movement between A and B.
You’ll soon become a better deer hunter if you can identify these patterns. If you know a deer’s bedding area and where it goes after bedding, you’re already ahead of the game, as you can be there when the deer arrives.
Optimum stand locations
Once you’ve got the hang of your deer hunting scouting techniques and know the terrain and land features, choosing your stand locations is much easier. It’s just as necessary to devise routes that aren’t going to spook deer as you enter and exit the deer woods as it is sitting in a deer stand.
An excellent way to learn how to be a better deer hunter is to educate yourself on choosing your entry and exit routes wisely. As I said at the start, learning how to be a better deer hunter is an art form, and avoiding a deer’s nose in every part of the deer woods is one of the primary skills.
Be hunters before entering and departing your stand locations
A better deer hunter won’t start hunting deer when they enter the deer stand. The hunt begins when you shower with your scent-free soap and choose fruit for breakfast. Every part of successful deer hunting is orchestrated long before arriving at the deer woods. Similarly, the entry route to your stand or blind is part of the hunt and should be treated that way.
Now and then, you’ll find a hunter who starts power walking down the entry route, keen to get the hiking over so they can relax when reaching the deer stand. This person may never become a better deer hunter, and sadly, those who hunt alongside those like them will probably struggle more too.
Slowly still-hunt from the moment you enter the woods, as you never know when a deer might decide that today’s the day to show itself en route.
Just as the hunt begins much earlier than with a group of hunters making their way to stand locations, it only ends when you arrive home and kiss Mama or Papa Bear “hello.” There are deer in the woods. Make sure you always give yourself the best chance of finding one.
Identify the Best Conditions for the Hunt
Another advantage smart deer hunters enjoy is being able to identify the best conditions for deer hunting. There are excellent and poor deer hunting times; recognizing these will enable you to predict whether to hunt or not. Your deer stand placement will eventually burn out, so it’s best to use your stand only when conditions are favorable.
Hunting during the Rut
The period where bucks get amorous and estrus females do a lot of running is known as the chasing phase, or “the rut’, in most deer hunting circles. Very little mating happens during the rut, but every mature buck does his utmost to change that.
Most hunters will choose deer hunting during the rut over any other period. Bucks who’ve been mainly active at night are suddenly there in the daylight, and to say that their minds are otherwise engaged would be an understatement. In deer hunting, there is no better time to be behind a blind or in a stand.
The rut brings challenges, and every hunter must know these. Before the rut’s peak, you’ll notice numerous scrape and rub lines as bucks leave their scents to mark territory, so it’s great to hunt these locations.
As the rut hits its peak, with bucks and intermingles more, this scrape and rub activity suddenly vanishes. This means a change in hunting tactics is necessary overnight.
What bait attracts deer for hunting?
The most widely used and popular bait to attract whitetails is corn. Besides being very popular among deer all over North America, it’s also a cost-effective option for hunters.
When blood-trailing deer, what should you remember?
What will make blood-trailing deer easier is if fellow hunters help. At your landmark, mark your shot zone with flagging tape or something else you’ll see easily. Get low to the ground and use a wide arc in the direction the deer went to find the first blood spots. Mark your trail as you follow the blood.
What is an ethical shot in dear hunting?
A shot is ethical if you’re confident of hitting the vital zones of your prey, which will result in a clean and humane kill. Taking a shot when you’re not sure you can hit the critical regions is unethical, and you should instead not take it. A responsible hunter should know when a shot is appropriate to take.
One Final Tip: Be Ethical and Honor Your Prey
Whether you hunt with a gun or a bow, you’ll be a better hunter when you learn to take the ethical shot, which leads to a quick and painless kill. You’ll learn how to be a better deer hunter once you’re self-disciplined enough to decline a shot that may cause needless suffering to your prey. This means patience, practice, and honoring the deer itself.
A better deer hunter will always promote and protect our hunting heritage. As an experienced deer hunter, promoting the values and deer hunting way of life to novice hunters is a non-negotiable part of this art form. Our hunting heritage is more important than the hunt itself, which always bears remembering.