Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips
Whitetail deer hunting season isn’t far off, and if you’re anything like us, you can’t wait to be out in the woods on the trail of a mature buck. Whether you’ve been hunting for your entire life or this is your very first season, it’s important to continually hone your skills. Not only does practice make the kill cleaner for both you and the deer, but it also ups your chances of luring in that coveted big buck.
There’s nothing better than a freezer full of fresh, wild meat to see you and your family through the winter (and a nice set of antlers to go with it.) That’s why our pros have put together some of their favorite deer hunting tips for you to try out this upcoming season.
Go Shooting – A Lot
You might be looking at this tip and saying “no duh!” But the truth is, you can’t ever be too familiar with your weapon of choice. Bow, rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader – doesn’t matter! The more practiced you are with your weapon, the better the chances are of you accomplishing the ultimate goal of hunting: swiftly dispatching your quarry.
Being a good shot has a number of huge perks. First, it means a much quicker and more painless death for the deer. Second, putting a bullet, arrow, or slug right where you want it to go decreases your chances of ruining precious meat. Finally, it’s much easier to make a good shot in a high pressure hunting situation when the actions come naturally. Practice makes perfect!
Study Your Hunting Area
Knowing your area is almost as important as knowing your weapon. And luckily, everyone has easy access to aerial maps via the internet! Take some time to really study maps of the area. Make a note of spots that offer easy access to both food and cover, and look for corridors that may make travel easier on deer.
If you’re scouting out an area that’s heavily hunted, look for the thickest, most gnarly pockets of brush and timber. You’ll have better chances of bagging a deer if you’re willing to go where other hunters won’t.
If you have access to your hunting area year-round, go exploring out in the field itself. Just be sure to leave the area alone in the weeks before the season opens so that the deer can go back to doing their thing undisturbed.
Study The Deer Themselves
Nothing teaches you more about how to hunt deer than, well, watching actual deer. Each buck has their own personality, preferences, and behavior patterns, and it’s well worth learning them. In fact, this is one of the best whitetail deer hunting tips we can offer!
We recommend using trail cams to observe bucks throughout the year. That way, you can get a good idea of where they like to feed and bed down without having to disturb their routines.
A good set of binoculars is also an indispensable tool when deer-watching. While they’re good for finding travel corridors and figuring out which bucks are in the area, trail cams don’t catch everything. Getting out in the field during early mornings and late evenings when whitetails are more active can help you get an even better idea of where (and when) to find the buck you’re looking for.
And finally, don’t discount the importance of paying attention to deer sign! Things like droppings, tracks, and little tufts of fur can indicate places where whitetails like to gather. Game trails with fresh tracks that lead to water, beds, and feeding areas are sure signs of active corridors that bucks (and does) probably travel frequently.
Use Calls When They Make Sense
Calls, scents, and decoys can all be great tools when hunting those wily whitetails. However, you have to use them when they make sense. Many hunters overuse estrus and doe-in-estrus calls, or think that they will work well even before the rut takes place. In reality, all you’ll have is a very confused buck that probably won’t run right to you.
On the other hand, estrus scents and calls can do wonders during the rut, and are indispensable tools for nearly any kind of hunting during that time frame. Scrapes and rattling antlers can also bring out the top dogs who are spoiling for a fight. Studying real scrapes and fighting bucks can help you mimic the right sights, sounds, and scents in order to be successful.
Fawn bleats and doe calls can work well almost any time. If you’re just looking to fill the freezer and don’t need a set of antlers to go with it, a distressed fawn call will almost always bring any doe in the vicinity running.
Find What Works For You
There are many ways to hunt whitetail deer, ranging from stand hunting, to using ground blinds, to still hunting, and even using spot-and-stalk techniques. You will have to decide which hunting method fits your needs and your area.
Tree Stands – This whitetail deer hunting method is exactly what it sounds like: the hunter attaches a stand in a strong tree, climbs up, then stays put until a suitable deer comes along.
There are many pros to this method of hunting. First, bucks tend not to look up, which means that you are likely to stay well hidden even when shifting to bring up your bow or rifle for a shot. Second, any human odor will be carried above the deer’s head – they’ll never smell you coming. Tree stands are one of the best ways to successfully ambush whitetails in well-scouted, quiet areas.
On the other hand, tree stands might not be best for areas that you don’t know well. They also might not be best for heavily pressured land. While they’re excellent tools for the patient hunter, they do require nearly unlimited patience. You may sit in your stand for days on end without seeing a deer… and then bag a monster at high noon when you’re least expecting to see one. Finally, getting in and out of a tree stand can be difficult, so you should consider your physical limitations (if any) before opting to use one.
Ground Blinds – This method is when hunters use either natural or man-made covering to camouflage themselves while whitetail deer hunting. You can buy pre-made ground blinds or construct your own out of natural materials like brush and grass.
If you’re buying a pre-made blind, pick a good spot and set it up in the field several weeks before hunting starts. This will give the deer a chance to get used to it so its newness (and any lingering human odor) doesn’t jeopardize your chances. Much like tree stands, these blinds are a great for well-scouted, quiet land.
You can also create your own ground blind when you get to your favorite spot. “Homemade” blinds have the advantage of looking and smelling natural. However, the act of creating it might alert nearby deer to your presence, so try to build it as quietly as possible. It doesn’t have to win any beauty contests; it just has to provide enough cover to shield you from the eyes of wary animals.
Hunting from a ground blind is a lot like hunting from a tree stand, except that the deer are on eye-level with you. The blind makes it easier for you to conceal movements such as drawing a bow or aiming a rifle. (Note: this doesn’t mean it will completely hide movement, so you will still have to be careful!) It is also much easier to get in and out of, so is ideal for hunters with physical limitations.
Before hunting from a ground blind, you will want to wash your hunting clothes with odor eliminating detergent, since the blind won’t keep whitetails from smelling you. And again, remember to be patient! Odds are a deer will come along sooner or later (and you can up your odds by observing deer during the off season and picking a good spot for your blind.)
Still Hunting – When still hunting, the hunter slowly moves through the terrain, scanning for deer as they go. And when we say slowly, we mean very slowly, especially if you’re calling. Some hunters wait up to fifteen minutes in the same exact spot between calls! And it works. More than one successful hunter has used this very technique to harvest beautiful bucks.
Surprisingly, still hunting can work really well in areas that have been heavily hunted. One of our favorite ways to still hunt pressured whitetails is to find the thorniest, nastiest-looking patch of brush in the area and work your way slowly into and around it. Big bucks get big because they’re smart enough to keep themselves alive by hiding from hunters and other predators. If they have to bed down in a swamp, or in a patch of unappealing briars for a couple of days in order to save their necks, they’ll do it without hesitation. Which means you might have to be prepared for an uncomfortable hunt.
Still hunting can have awesome results, but it also takes years to learn. Patience, skill, and experience are key in making this hunting method work for you. (One of the best ways to learn it is to find an experienced mentor to tag along with so that you can learn the ropes.)
Spot-and-stalk – This is when a hunter glasses an area, spots a good deer, and then works their way towards it until they can get a good shot. Most of the time, the spot-and-stalk method is used in the vast wilderness of the American West and similar hunting areas. Though it’s typically used to hunt mule deer and elk, it can also be a good option for hunting whitetails.
Whether or not you want to use this technique really depends on the terrain in which you’ll be hunting. Since whitetail deer hunting usually takes place in fields, woods, and thick brush, spotting your quarry and putting the sneak on them can be very difficult. But if you are hunting in more open country, spot-and-stalk can be an effective way to single out and harvest the deer you want. Just be prepared for quite a bit of walking, and have a good strategy in place before you go (pay attention to the way the wind blows, and use as much cover as you can when stalking your prey.)
There are many ways to successfully hunt whitetails, but these are the four main methods. We’ve given you quite a few deer hunting tips in this article, and hopefully, it’s enough to get you started. Remember that hunting requires a lot of trial and error, as well as patience. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, and don’t give up. Enjoy the experience!
If you’ve bagged a nice whitetail buck, congratulations! Be sure to check out our selection of European skull mount hangers to display your trophy and commemorate your hunt.