When thinking about a survival situation we normally tend to think in terms of days or at most weeks, before you are rescued or things return to normal. However, what if it goes on for an undetermined amount of time? You can only pack so much food, fruits and berries aren’t gonna cut it, and trapping small critters like rabbits or squirrels can be a hit and miss proposition. You’ll eventually need to find and bring down a large animal in order to have a reliable source of food.
Deer is the perfect choice to fulfill your needs, as they live in nearly every state in the country from the frigid north to warm weather Texas. Unlike moose or elk, that are monstrous in size and weight, a field dressed deer is normally transportable by a normal strength individual.
Deer are creatures of habit, whose traits are dictated by their environment. Once you determine how the deer react in this environment, deer in Iowa act in different ways that deer in Mississippi, they tend to repeat their daily activities unless something changes.
The key to successfully hunting deer is to learn their traits, what attracts and what repels them, and what you can do to enhance your success. Deer can be hunted with a bow or a rifle, each method has its advantages/disadvantages, but many of the hunting techniques are the same. For our example we’ll assume we are using a rifle to hunt with. It doesn’t matter what caliber gun you use, a 22, shotgun and slug, 45/70, as long as your aim is true. Of course the larger the caliber bullet the more room for error, a 45/70 bullet’s impact will knock a deer down, although not killing it, where a 22 will not.
Critical Tips for Deer Hunting Success
Tip 1. You must learn the environment in which you’ll be hunting. This is not as simple a task as it seem. Initially you must decide how far you want to stray from camp. You can’t hunt too close to the noise and smells of a typical camp, however you don’t want to travel too far, a mile away, as you hopefully will be carrying a 100+ pound carcass back with you when you return. You don’t want to be forced to abandon your kill to the coyotes or bears because you were too exhausted to continue packing the weight back to camp.
Tip 2. Scouting is a mission of research not sight seeing. Many people don’t realize there is a difference between looking and seeing. You are reviewing the terrain as you walk, but also what does the terrain hold. Look for scrapes along trees, usually pine saplings, but a deer will use whatever size tree available to rub its antlers against. Scour the ground for deer dung. Stop periodically and scan the area, do you see a worn path? Trails can be animal highways which are traveled periodically throughout the day.
Tip 3. Locate a path, deer rubs in the area? Now it’s time to look for a hunting spot. Being up off the ground is preferred if possible. It will offer you a greater field of vision, keep you off damp or wet ground, a sure method to quickly become miserable, and is above the deer’s normal line of sight which helps conceal your form. A portable deer stand is of course ideal, but if you don’t have one, look for a mature tree with low hanging branches that can be climbed to reach a fork or similar resting place you can sit in. Caution: Most accidents occur when climbing in or out of a deer stand. Use extreme caution when climbing, have your rifle safety on and never have a bullet chambered.
Tip 4. If you can’t get high then get concealed. Look for a large tree to lean against. The trunk will shield your backside from wind and view. Thoroughly clean the area of leaf and other litter to prevent noise, but realize this exposes you to bare ground. Place a blanket or something similar on the ground to insulate you.
Tip 5. Ensure you have clear shooting lanes. It won’t do you any good to position yourself in a place where thick brush or other obstacle blocks your view and shooting lane. The tiniest twig can deflect an arrow. Clear any obvious blockage, but you must beware if you move or disturb the area too much the deer will notice the change and alter their path.
Tip 6. Deer have excellent senses and smelling is one of their best. Human odors of any type will spook them. Always wash clothes and yourself in scent-free soap. Another trick is to store your hunting clothes, outer layers like coveralls, in a plastic bag with leaves and dry dirt. The clothes will take on the natural scent of nature and help mask your smell.
Tip 7. Using store bought scents are not a total waste of money, but it can be a repellent as much as a draw. Spreading deer estrous may entice a rutting buck to investigate, however, if the scent is put down at the wrong time of the season, it’ll only confuse the buck and deer will always use caution over curiosity. The won’t come near it.
Tip 8. It’s imperative to make as little noise as possible when walking to your hunting position. In order to do that you need to walk as straight a line as possible, not meander through the woods kicking up leaves. That sounds simple, but nearly impossible if you don’t have a marked trail. Woods in the daylight are totally different than woods in the pitch blackness. That easy to follow trail you took yesterday afternoon during the daylight is no longer visible, even with a flashlight at 5 A.M.
Tip 9. Use a florescent spray paint to mark trees showing the path. Spray an easily distinguishable spot as high as you can reach, trying to elevate it above the deer’s normal line of sight. Don’t be skimpy. Spraying trees every 20 yards is useless … you’ll never be able to find them. Now you’re lost and are concentrating on finding paint spots instead of your hunting spot.
It’s late morning and you have had no luck, nothing moving. This could be caused by many factors, weather conditions, full moon, picked wrong spot, whatever. You’re not doing any good there so it’s time to change your luck. If they won’t come to you … go to them. Let’s examine additional hunting techniques.
Tip 10. Hunting by walking and stealth. When walking do it slowly. You’re not at the shopping mall, there’s no hurry. Walk for a certain distance, one area of cover to another, and stop still. This is where a watch comes in handy. When standing still and straining to hear or spot wild game 2 or 3 minutes may seem like an hour. By using a watch to gauge your time, say 5-10 minutes, you’ll force yourself to stay still and in place.
Tip 11. Come to an immediate stop and remain motionless if you hear a noise. More than likely it wasn’t the deer who made the noise, but you. A twig snapping may seem like no big deal to a hunter, but it’s an alarm siren for the deer. If you see the deer it may stand and stare in your direction for a long time. If it doesn’t see or smell you, there’s a chance the deer will resume whatever it was doing. Then again it may bolt. Let it bolt. You’ll have the opportunity to try and track it. There’s literally zero chance of quick drawing and getting a kill shot off at a deer that’s on alert. The second you move to raise your weapon the deer will disappear. A wild shot will only insure you’ll never see that deer again.
Tip 12. Another technique besides slow walking is Quick-Stepping. A deer instantly recognizes the cadence of a man’s walk through leaves, but if you take short, lightweight quick steps in a 10 to 20 yard sprint and stop dead, there’s a distinct possibly the deer will interpret this as another animal. If performed correctly, you’d be surprised at how much you sound like a squirrel dashing through the woods.
Tip 13. When using binoculars while hunting move slowly looking for anything that doesn’t fit. A brown patch located the the middle of green moss should require an intense look. Always double check from time to time what you’ve already inspected. A change in light or an animal may have moved into view may have occurred in the last 20 minutes.
You just took a shot and was sure you hit it, but the deer turned and bolted, or the deer fell then got back up and ran away.
Tip 14. Resist your natural instinct to panic and go chase the animal. Sit still, hum a song, bite your lip, whatever it takes to allow things to settle down. A wounded animal will continue to run if it feels itself being pursued, but will lie down if not feeling threatened.
Tip 15. You have verified you did in fact hit the deer, as there is blood on the ground. Move slowly and quietly as you track the blood trail. Be alert for the quarry as it may have bedded down a short distance away. As you trail, drop a piece of toilet paper or other material at each blood spot. That way if you lose the trail you can backup to the last known blood trace and resume the hunt in a different direction.
Tip 16. Don’t give up. Many times the blood trail will simply appear to disappear. That’s normally not a good sign, but it doesn’t signal the end. Be persistent. Remember that may be the only deer you’ll see that week.
Tip 17. When tracking a blood trail don’t limit your search to only the ground. Depending on where shot there could be blood on leaves or branches that are shoulder high.
Tip 18. If you’re hunting in an area that is brush filled and drop a deer in the distance, take time to make a mental note of where the deer fell. This is especially important if you must lose sight of the area while traveling to it. A small blood spot is sometimes difficult to locate when you know where to look. Expand that area by 20 to 30 feet and you’ve lost it.
Tip 19. Be wary if the animal instantly drops, as there is a chance the deer fell from shock and will regain its footing and attempt to run away. Maintain a bead on the animal and be prepared to shoot again. For the most part it’s better if the animal runs a short distance then drops.
Tip 20. Unlike televised hunting shows, do not walk up to an animal and prod it with your weapon or foot. The last thing you want is for the animal to suddenly jump up, running away, and you’re too close to raise your rifle and get a shot off, or worse yet, the deer attacks and injures you. Instead, toss a limb or stone at the animal to get a response. Note: If an animal’s eyes are closed it’s probably still alive. If you harbor any doubts shoot the animal in the throat directly under the chin, which is humane and won’t waste meat.