Becoming a better deer hunter requires thinking outside of the box as well as adhering to tried and true methods that cannot be overstated in their importance. Hunting is not as simple as grabbing a firearm and heading out to aimlessly find a buck to hunt.
Deer hunting requires thoughtful preparation, scouting, the right gear, patience, and adhering to some basics. Whether you want to freshen up on your deer hunting skills and theory, or you are a novice looking for some advice on where to start, the following paragraphs will offer you 9 important tips to make you a better and more successful deer hunter.
As a hunter, one of your goals is to be as scent free as possible to avoid your prey smelling you before you get your shot off. Cover scents are a helpful tool, but they only work as well as a hunter’s elimination of their own scent. Eliminating human odors as best as possible is one of the most important pre-hunting actions you can take because scent covers can only do so much. Scent covers work best when applied on hunters who have taken care to rid themselves of human contaminates.
You can start by eliminating human odors on your clothing, gear, and your body. Hunting supply shops sell scent eliminating soaps, laundry detergent, and even clothing bags that mask any scent with a potent earth smell.
Packing your gear in earth-scent bags is a pre-hunting ritual you should always do, as is bathing using scent eliminating soaps. You will never truly become impossible to smell in the wilderness, as sweat, wind, human contamination, and wildlife’s incredible sense of smell will always be a factor. However, you can do a lot with excellent and cheap scent control products that last a long time and are worth the preparation.
Scout Out Before the Hunt
Hunting is not always about heading out into the woods and stalking or finding your prey as it passes. You can become a better deer hunter by understanding where deer gather and doing your homework by scouting out your hunting area before the actual hunt.
Deer tend to frequent certain areas for food, mating, and safety. Anyone who has had a garden in an area where deer frequent, know how they love to come back and eat your flowers and food. Using this same premise, even in the wild, deer will frequent certain areas that they know are safe and create trails for themselves (deer runs).
To be a good hunter, you do not have to go out blind and nab yourself a deer if one happens by. Knowing where to find your prey is half the battle. Taking the time to scout your intended hunting area before your hunt is important. You can get an idea of how skittish the deer are, what time of day they frequent the area, how many there are, you can get familiar with the terrain, and most importantly, you can pre-plan how you will set up your blind/stand and gear.
Practice Setting up Tree Stand Blind and Gear Pre-Season
One of the most important things to master as a hunter is your own impact onto the environment. This can extend to your human scent, how you utilize your gear (such as your backpack), and how much noise you make as you travel.
In order to master your goal of quietly acquiescing through the environment, you must be well-practiced and familiar with your gear, your pre- and peri-hunt scent control, your coverage (tree stand blinds), and your own movements.
Special Forces and Police Officers are good at what they do because they practice, practice, practice. They know exactly what gear they have, where it is on their person, and how to move quietly to retain the element of surprise and avoid detection.
As a hunter, you can do the same in the wild. Deer have sensitive hearing, can feel vibrations of foot stomping, and they have a great sense of smell. By practicing the packing of your gear, extracting it from your pack, knowing your weapon forwards and backwards, and setting up your tree stand blind during the pre-season, you can create a well-oiled plan that will help you become a better hunter.
When you scout out the environment of your planned hunt, you can become familiar with the area, become familiar with carrying your gear quietly, and practice setting up your tree stand blind so that the first time you do it, isn’t when you have that perfect deer in front of you that you will likely end up scaring away.
Practice makes perfect, and you will thank yourself for the foresight when you have yourself a trophy buck.
Scent covers and scent eliminators are ways of taking control of a deer’s sense of smell and turning it to your advantage.
For your next successful hunt, try out the concept of “territorial infringement” on the bucks in your hunting area. The idea of this concept is when a buck enters the territory of another (this buck will be you, via buck urine, buck grunt calls, and tarsal glands), the other buck will take notice—but not to run away. Instead of simply avoiding detection, you can entice a buck to stay in the area.
To practice territorial infringement, you can pour buck urine and gel of tarsal gland at your preferred hunting spot. You can use the urine on a drag system as well. Remember that the bucks that will stay in the area are going to be the dominant males—they are larger and when they smell another buck in their territory, they will be looking for him and getting ready for battle.
This can be used in your favor. By taking this backward route of bringing the deer to you rather than quietly finding them in passing, you increase your chances of a successful hunt of a large buck.
Set Up Concealment Keeping in Mind Wind Direction
This tip may seem like a no-brainer, to keep heed of the wind and wind changes. While this is Hunting 101, many hunters forget this tip when they set up their tree stand blinds. When stalking their prey, hunters know to keep their scent downwind, but when setting up concealment, you must keep this in mind as well.
In addition to using odor elimination techniques and cover scents, setting up your concealment downwind to your hunting area is still important. Your hunting blind, no matter how solid, will not cover your scent or sounds completely—especially not from the sensitive ears of bucks.
Bring with you a camouflaged cloth or a handheld wind meter to ensure that your set up is in a good spot.
Make Sure You Have the Correct Gear and Weapons
A firearm or bow are not all you need to hunt. A successful kill is 90 percent preparation in order to get that perfect shot and take it. Make sure you prepare for your hunt properly by not only bring water and food, but equipping yourself with the proper clothing, scent controls, and appropriate firearm for this particular hunt.
Noisy clothing and gear can scare away even the deafest of animals in the wild. The unusual sounds of humanity are known to deer and do not always scare them away, but a loud piece of Velcro in a quiet clearing may very well ruin your shot completely.
Depending on how long your hunt is (a day hunt or multi-day), make sure you have the correct pack, enough water, food, your firearm, a knife, a wind meter, your scent controls, on-site harvesting kit, your blind, and so on. If harvesting on site, make certain you have a meat hauling pack to carry out your prize.
Make sure your hunt is successful—think ahead about every possibility and every move you plan to make.
Consider Game Trail Cameras
Many hunters go on solo with only their eyes, binoculars, scopes, and luck to guide them. Game trail cameras have come a long way and are more affordable, more concealable, of better resolution, and smaller than ever.
These trail cameras can scope your hunting grounds out when you cannot be out there yourself. As you prepare for your hunt and get a feel for the hunting area, these game trail cameras can tell you if you are successful in finding the right location, if your Territorial Infringement techniques are working, and if the area of interest is viable for a good hunt.
Where to Hunt
One of the most important pieces of advice to any hunter is to find out the place places to hunt. You will not always have a guaranteed hunting location in the wild. Most of the hunting process is finding or attracting deer into the perfect spot.
You can, however, research your area and find certain environmental features and topography that attracts deer and is easiest to successfully hunt in. For example, trail hubs, funnels, bottlenecks, and pinch points are all good locations that any hunter should know to frequent.
Bring the Buck to You
Enticing a buck to enter your hunting area can occur in one of two ways: Territorial Infringement or via Mating Scents.
After reading the section on Territorial Infringement above, you are familiar with the idea of bringing the deer to you as opposed to blindly stalking and praying to find a buck to hunt. Rather than utilizing the territorial concept of Territorial Infringement, a good hunter can entice a buck using a variety of methods.
The main two methods are using trail food, and using a drag with doe urine, best used during mating season. Especially the urine drag, the overwhelming smell of doe urine during the rut will make it nearly impossible for a buck to ignore.
Should you do this correctly, you can bring the buck to you, and if you set up your concealment downwind and lay in wait silently, you can nab yourself a buck using a firearm or bow.
Becoming a better hunter is not necessarily dependent on becoming a better shooter. There are so many factors in hunting that must be done well in order to become successful. Some hunters ignore helpful and important tips such as pre-planning, scouting, reverse scent concepts, and other smart options, because they mistakenly believe that it makes it less challenging or are simply misinformed and believe that hunting is simply going out on foot with a firearm or bow and taking down their prey.
This could not be further from the truth. While everyone has their own philosophy on hunting and what the challenge means to them, the act of hunting itself is a game of cat and mouse. To become victorious, you must outthink your prey and maintain the upper hand. This is done through scent control, scent deception, firepower, concealment, and becoming one with the environment.
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