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10 Keys to deer hunting

Updated on August 23, 2012

Successful deer hunters know as much as possible about whitetail deer because you’re trying to hunt them in their home. These are the 10 biggest keys to being a successful hunter, knowing your deer, scouting the area, proper stand location, when to hunt, physically and mentally ready, scent control, patients and persistence, when and how to use calls, how to put this all together and when to shoot or pass.

10 keys to successful deer hunting

Key#1- knowing your deer:
What are their food sources, body languages, water sources and habits such as like cows deer have stomach chambers to store large amounts of food, this allows them to spend 70% of the time bedded chewing their cud, or that deer have a sense of smell 5times better than a blood hound. With the internet, TV, magazines and books that are out there it will only improve your hunting becoming informed.
Key#2-scouting the area:
If you have a river bottom, stream, creek, swamp or marsh this is the best place to start,
when scouting look for trails that lead into heavy thickets or swamps where it’s hard for predators to get that will usually be bedding areas, don’t pressure these areas, instead try to find trails and cross trails that lead to food and water.
Also start at these bottoms and work your way up ditches and fingers that feeds into these look for ridges and changes in contour or areas that are causing deer to funnel. Watch for tracks, deer droppings, travel routes, nibbled branches or mushrooms, rub lines or sign post and be aware of how deer are getting to water and food sources. These travel routes and cross trails in these areas are usually excellent hunting.
Key#3-proper stand location
You want to find location for a stand or blind that will keep you hidden, show no silhouette and playing the wind, so that deer can’t smell you. When hunting near bedding areas or food sources, you need to get up in the air if you hunt 20-30ft. In the air deer shouldn’t be able to wind you. I have found that many times when I needed to get high in the air there are no good trees to climb, they are too crooked or too many branches, these are great locations for climbing sticks with a lock on stand.
Try to find locations where there are many deer trails crossing each other, these trails are usually heading to and from water or food sources and are very productive. Find a location that is 30yds. Off these trails where you can get a good view from your tree stand, make sure the prevailing wind blows your scent away from where deer are traveling and be patient. Many times I’ve found than a homemade ground blind can be the only way you’ll be able to get a shot, just make sure you try to blend with the natural surroundings.

Key#4-when to deer hunt
In other words, what stage of the rut are deer in? What phase is the moon and what is the weather pattern? Deer react differently at various stages of the rut and you need to understand how this will effect your hunt. Also the moon phase is important, the moon has a lot do with the time of day you should be hunting and it also controls the stage of rut the deer are in. Deer hunter’s moon guides are available and can be a very helpful tool. Weather patterns are important which direction is the wind coming, rain or cold fronts can really turn deer on. After long periods of rain you’ll find does feeding with bucks nearby checking for hot does. Most of us have to hunt when the opportunity arises no matter what the moon, weather or rut is doing but it does matter as how we should hunt.
Key#5-physically and mentally ready:
Being able to hike 500yds; uphill thru rough terrain with 40lbs of equipment and then sitting for hours without even seeing game can be very demanding. If you get yourself in good physical shape you’ll not only be able to breath easier and sweat less but you’ll find it’s easier to sit longer. Mentally you need to be prepared for long periods of nothing to being ready for the unexpected to happen at any moment. You must be alert even to spot movement from the corner of your eye or listening good enough to hear a twig snap or bushes move. Riding a bike for 20 minutes a day or hitting the treadmill at a fast pace can do wonders for your physical and mental concentration.
Key#6-scent control:
No matter how much scent control you practice, playing the wind is still the number 1 rule of deer hunting but controlling your scent can make you a more successful hunter. Everything from laundry, shampoo, soap, your breathe, your equipment, your clothing and especially your boots should have some form of scent control. Unscented products are available for almost any item or scent control is available at ant hunting supplies store. Many hunters, myself included believe that you shouldn’t even put your boots on until in the field. I wear other shoes and don’t put them on until out of the truck and then spray them down with scent control

Key#7-patients and persistence:
Patients and persistence is very much needed in deer hunting, you may spend a week in the woods seeing only 2-3 deer that aren’t shooters. One thing all deer hunters have in common is that you have to pay your dues, spend hours scouting or planting food plots putting in mineral beds, putting up tree stands. If you’ve scouted an area that has good sign you have to be patient and believe that your trophy will come thru and persistent enough to follow through with it.
The buck pictured to the right, we had on camera checking a scrape in the pines every 2to3 days, after sitting up a climber and sitting for 3 days of seeing nothing and thinking this wasn’t such a good spot after all, we decided that we may as well stick it out, that evening there was one quite crack of a twig and there he stood. It was a solid reminder to be patient.
Key#8-when and how to use calls:
To be successful you need to understand why deer react to different calls and rattles, which to use for the stage of rut you are hunting and what combination of these calls can help you harvest a nice trophy buck. There are many available that can be productive when used properly. When in doubt don’t call a mistake may chase deer away for hours.

With so much information, videos, TV shows and the internet you can learn how and when you should use these. As a good practice don’t use calls for the heck of it, when a deer is looking at you, when a buck is already traveling your direction or unless you’re ready to shoot, deer can appear very quickly from nowhere so you need to be ready.

Key#9-How to put this all together:
To put together a game plan for the trophy deer your after you have to combine all these items. You know what food source your deer are using, where they are bedding, you’ve found their travel routes while scouting, your stand is right with the wind away from the deer and you have your scent control in place. You know what the moon phase is and what the weather is going to do. You know the stage of the rut and are ready physically and mentally to be patient enough to see your hunt thru.
After all of this comes together now you have to be persistent enough to see the deer you’ve scouted and wait the opportunity to get the shot your looking for.
Key#10-shoot or pass
Successful hunters, clubs and outfitters practice deer management to protect our wildlife for future generations. With use of trail cams over deer feeders, mineral beds and food plots you’ll have a good idea what deer are using your hunting area, take the time to look these over and select the older mature deer to take out of the herd. We can tell by our photos which deer are shooters even before season begins, you will have a buck or two show up post rut that you didn’t know was there. If you use this practice every year and pass the knowledge on to others your deer will continue to improve year after year. Letting a good 3year old buck pass now can make a great trophy in 2-3 years.

After a heavy rain where are deer more likely to be?

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