Congratulations! After following through with the hunting guide, it is time we talk about how we should hunt. Hunting is a sport which requires patience and perseverence. You may have to stare down from a tree stand for several hours before having your eyes laid on a buck. After that, you carefully and accurately make your shot, making sure that you get a clean shot. Hunting effectively require great skill.

In this post, I want to cover the whole process of hunting. This is to give you an overall picture of what to expect. If you understand the process thoroughly, you will know what skills you need to develop to hunt effectively.

1. Scouting

Being able to just walk into an area, quickly set up your gear, shoot a deer and go home straight, unfortunately, is likely something that you will not experience. That is why scouting is necessary before your hunt. It is the most important role in hunting a deer. In fact, more time is usually spent on scouting and preparation for the hunt than the hunt itself to increase your chances of success. The good news is that many hunters will say that scouting is almost as fun or even more fun than the hunt itself! Scouting is typically done weeks or even months before deer hunting season opens.

 Cyber scouting

The first step is to do cyber scouting. This means getting online research on things like maps, Google Earth and look at aerial photos. Aerial photos are taken by flying objects so that images can be captured from above. It can capture the layout and features of land and property. By doing this, you can decide on the area where you want to hunt. A good tip is to use the elimination process to narrow down the hunting area that you want to focus on. This means crossing out the areas that you do not want to focus on. As you cross out more and more areas, you will start to notice a location where you may want to consider further scouting.

Scout food sources

It is very important to scout for areas with food sources. This is because the need to feed is part of the deer survival instinct and will always be the motivation behind deer movement throughout the year. If you find the right food sources, you will be on your way to have more encounters with deer on the land you hunt.

Start by looking out for areas where deer spend most of their time. This includes agricultural fields, oak trees and anything else deer feed on in your area. Once you have located the feeding destination, you can then start looking out for the trails where deer enter and exit the area. Worn trails are a good indicator of deer activity.

 Scout bedding areas

Bedding areas are typically oval-shaped and have leaves and vegetation that are flat, as though something has sat on it for some time. If it is a doe bedding area, you will find multiple beds around. If it is a buck bedding area, single beds will mainly be found.

Bedding areas can be easily located if you are hardworking to trek around. Follow the trails around food sources to increase your likelihood of locating a bedding area. Setting up your trail camera in advance before your hunt can also help in learning where deer are most likely bedding, which usually is not far from the food source either. It is important to scout for bedding areas so that you can plan how to strategize your hunt around the location as deer move to food sources from the bedding area and back.

 

Apart from these, some main deer signs to look out for during scouting are:

Hoof prints

The most obvious deer tracks are the hoof prints that they leave behind. This can be seen in the snow, mud or soft ground. They are somewhat ovular shaped with a dot below the hoof. These prints give you an idea on where deer go for bedding, food and drinking. This will be useful for choosing your hunting spot. They also allow you to figure the size and gender of the deer you are dealing with.

 Tracks

The same way how by walking or biking can leave visible trail marks in the ground, deer movements from their bedding area to food area and back again will have impact on the earth and grass enough to leave the visual proof behind. Following these tracks may very well lead you to these areas. It is not always easy to notice these tracks because of all the foliage around but it is worth looking out for it. Look along wood edges and secluded water sources to increase your chances of finding one.

 Rubs

A deer rub is caused by a male deer rubbing its forehead and antlers against a tree, leaving bare spots on the tree. This is to leave their scent to mark their territory and attract potential mates. The freshness of the rub will give you an idea of how recent it was made, and thus how recent a buck passed by. You can get information on the size of a rub because higher rubs on bigger trees will indicate that a mature buck has been near while lower rubs on smaller trees will usually indicate the presence of a younger buck.

 Scrapes

The function of scrapes is similar to rubs. A deer uses scrapes to mark its territory and also to attract does during the rut which is basically the season where bucks will fight to get the doe. This is done by scraping the earth at the foot of a tree to create a bare patch, then urinating on it. You will usually be able to smell a scrape as soon as you see it. This tells you that a buck is nearby!

 Droppings

Deer droppings can be a great help to your hunt by allowing you to judge how recent it was left by looking at its condition. You can save a lot of time trying to follow old tracks if you notice droppings that are old, and you can get affirmation to follow tracks if you notice fresh droppings. If you find a great number of droppings in one place, that is a good sign that you may be close to a bedding area.

Scouting in different seasons will allow you to discover different things. This is because patterns such as the type of food consumed by deer will change according to seasons. You should keep a record of all the scouting information you have found during each season so that you can make predictions for the next season.

Once you are happy with the information you have obtained through scouting, you should stay away from the hunting area during the last week before hunting season. You do not want to alert the deer and risk them changing their patterns so close to hunting season because they have detected human activity and sensed danger. You should do everything in advance, which includes setting up your trail camera so that deer will not have the opportunity to detect you and start avoiding the areas you have been. 

Here’s an excellent video on the basics of scouting.

 2. Setting Up Your Base

Tree Stand

If you decide to go with a climbing stand, the set up will mainly just require your leg and arm strength. Your climbing tree stand comes in two parts, the platform for your feet and the climbing aid which will also be your seat. Start off by fastening the platform to the tree trunk. This is done by locking the strap around the trunk and digging its teeth into it. Do not fasten the platform too high up because you will need to get on top of it. Then, fasten the climbing aid to the tree trunk but higher up than the platform. This is what will support your arms when climbing up the tree. After both parts are secure against the tree, connect the two together with straps. This is so that when you climb, you will not have to worry about falling if your feet slip out of the platform. Then, get yourself on top of the platform.

The next step is to connect yourself to the tree by using a safety strap. Attach the strap to your safety harness and around the tree trunk. Before you start climbing, secure both your feet into the platform. Make sure to find out the right technique to do this so that you can avoid slipping.

To start climbing up, first hold on tightly to the climbing aid because it will support your weight. With both feet locked into the platform, you just need to lift your legs to pull up the platform. Then, push the platform against the tree with your legs to lock it in. Use your arms to move the climbing aid higher up the tree and lock it in while standing up. Repeat this to climb up the tree and get to the height that you desire. As you climb higher, move the strap connected to your safety harness further up so that it is always above you. When you reach your final desired height, you want to make sure the strap is at a position that allows you to sit while waiting. You should also note that each climbing stand has its own weight restrictions, so it is important to read and understand the instruction manual for your stand.

The safest and quickest way to set up a ladder stand is to do it with two people. Firstly, loop a thick rope through three quarters up the ladder stand and have your partner hold onto the ends of the rope. Your partner will need to plant his feet firmly onto the bottom of the ladder with his back facing the tree while you pick up the ladder with your front facing the tree. Hence, you and your partner will be facing each other with the ladder in between. Start pushing the ladder rung by rung towards the tree while your partner pulls the rope towards him. The rung is basically the step on the ladder. Do this until the platform of the stand is placed against the tree.

Once your ladder is secured to the tree, it is a good idea for your partner to hold that ladder against the tree while you climb up. The first thing to do when you get up that stand is to loop a carabiner rope around the tree bark and hook it to your safety harness. Then, you can start wrapping a top strap around the tree bark to secure it to the stand followed by a bottom strap. Make sure the straps are securely wrapped to the tree. You can then install a lifeline to the tree and hook your safety harness to it before you unhook your harness from the carabiner rope. This allows you to always be connected to the tree whether you go up or down.

Using tree stands are safe for use overall. Of course, there will be a risk of injury which is why you will need to take extra precaution. The main one is that you should always be secured with a good quality safety harness. You should never hunt from a stand without this because many accidents on tree stands are due to sudden movement, so you want to secure yourself. Before you climb up the tree stand, ensure all the attachments are secured in its place. When going up the stand, do not be in a hurry. Make sure you go up slow and steadily. These safety precautions should not be taken lightly and should be applied no matter which type of tree stand you decide to use.

 Pop-up blinds

Setting up your pop-up blind is very simple and takes up little time. Place the folded blind on the ground. Then, you would want to start by pulling the centre up which is also the ceiling of the blind by using the handle attached. Lastly, pull out the other sides to get it into shape and there you have it!

Make sure to conceal your pop-up blind in a less obvious space. Cover it with foliage from the area as well to get rid of the human scent around. It is also recommendable to set it up in advance of hunting to allow deer to grow comfortable with the presence of the blinds so that they will not be suspicious of human activities.

Making your shot

 3. Making Your Shot

Getting into position

Make sure to practice your shooting positions beforehand so that you will only need to focus on the deer when it comes by. You should practice getting into position with an unloaded weapon. Standing is the most simple and fastest position, but it is also the most unstable. Crouching or sitting are more stable and comfortable for shooting if done properly. Ultimately, it is up to your preference but make sure that you are ready to get into position when the deer shows up.

Taking the shot

Before taking your shot, you must make sure that the deer is standing broadside. This means that you have a view on the side of the deer. You should aim just behind the front shoulder of the deer to hit the lungs. A lung shot is an easier kill especially for a beginner. This is because the area of the lungs is quite wide, so you do not have to be pinpoint accurate. Shooting the lungs will also cause heavy bleeding, so the deer should not run far. This is good because you want to get the deer down as fast and painlessly as possible.

You may also shoot the high shoulder of the deer to get a spine shot. This will likely cause the deer to drop in its tracks. The deer will be paralyzed but not dead yet. Hence, you will need to take a follow-up shot after. However, a spine shot is easy to miss, and you might end up damaging a lot of the meat.

Another shot that will make the killing fast is the brain shot. A deer will die within seconds when the brain takes a direct hit. However, the brain is a very small target, so it is not advisable to aim for the brain as a beginner. If you shoot too low, you may hit the nose. If you hit too high, your shot will go over its head. You may also end up wounding it through the jaw instead. Furthermore. taking a head shot will mean that you cannot preserve the head of the deer for your trophy display.

If you see a deer that is moving too quickly for you to take a proper shot, it is better to let it go. Or else, you may end up missing and face the risk of injuring other hunters or property. You should be 100% certain that what you shoot at is a deer and know what is behind the deer too. You should never shoot towards populated areas such as highways. Once you have ensured that the shot is safe to take, quietly position your weapon, hold it steadily, take a big breath and make your shot.

Tracking your prey

4. Tracking Your Prey

Once you have shot a deer, be prepared to track it down. The deer will seldomly die on the spot after being shot but will usually run off to a certain extent. After shooting, watch where the deer takes off to. Mark this spot on your GPS if necessary. You should wait about 15 to 30 minutes before tracking. If you try to chase it straight away, this will cause the deer to be more stressed and produce more adrenaline, allowing it to travel further. The sudden surge of hormones may also change the flavour of its meat. If you made a good shot, the deer will not get far and will lay down to die soon after.

It is your responsibility to make every effort to find the wounded deer and end its suffering humanely. Thus, you will need to patiently follow blood trails to track it down. To start tracking a blood trail, head to the spot the deer was when you shot it and examine the ground for blood, then pick up the trail. Also examine the foliage around for any signs of blood. Some hunters spray hydrogen peroxide around the foliage so that it will foam up and make the blood more visible. The way the blood is dispersed can indicate how good your hit was. If the blood seems splattered or sprayed around, the deer was likely running. If there are blood drops in uniform sizes with a little splatter, the deer was likely walking. A blood trail that is seen from side to side can indicate that the deer is losing strength and about to die.

If the deer has crossed a property line, you should make sure that you have permission to be on that property before going after it. It is considered trespassing if you do not have the permission. Hence, be sure to know how to get in contact with the owner of the land.

Some hunters have tried leaving the deer overnight after shooting it before going back to track it. However, this may mean that you will leave the deer to die a slow and painful death. As mentioned above, you want to end things as quick and painlessly as possible as a responsible hunter. Besides, the deer carcass will be exposed to other animals once it has died. In many parts of the country, coyotes will eat at least one part of the deer if you leave it there for a few hours more than necessary. Hence, it is not advisable for you to leave your deer for a whole night and come back the next day.

 5. Making Sure the Deer is Dead

When you have finally spotted the deer you shot and tracked, examine it properly from afar first. Different conditions of the blood can indicate the part of the deer you have shot. If you see foamy blood due to hitting the deer in the chest, this means you have likely penetrated the lungs. This is a good sign and the deer should be either dead or dying very soon.

You should always make sure the deer is dead before approaching it. A deer that is down is not necessarily deer that is dead! There have been incidences where hunters mistakenly think that the buck is dead when it is not and end up getting attacked and injured by its antlers. This mistake can be made especially when it is dark. Hence, take a good look at whether the deer is still breathing or moving. Use your optics to give you a clearer view.

If the deer is found to still be alive, you should approach it slowly and carefully. Be sure to maintain a safe distance. Then, position yourself well to take an accurate shot through the chest to end its suffering quick.

 

Conclusion

After understanding how the whole process work, you should be able to pinpoint what is necessary for your next hunt. If your hunt is successful, you can treat yourself to a venison dinner. Hunting is a skill, and for most skills, understanding the big-picture is important. I hope that this article served it’s purpose, giving you a general idea on what you can expect when you are hunting.