Are you thinking about going deer hunting for the first time? Well, get ready to join the ranks of more than 101 million Americans who participate in hunting, fishing, and wildlife activities every year. This is one popular pastime…and for good reason!
You’ll be in the great outdoors, immersed in nature, getting some good physical exercise, and catching your dinner at the same time. Oh, and you’ll be helping to keep the deer population in check while you’re at it. Nevertheless, it always pays to learn a few basic deer hunting tips for beginners before you go.
Trust us, this is one activity you don’t want to rush headlong into! Adding ignorance to inexperience is a recipe for mistakes, disappointment, and even potential safety issues. With that in mind, check out our 10 beginner tips on how to hunt deer and get ready for a more successful outing all-around.
Know Thy Deer
Newbies to deer hunting often look at these magnificent animals and assume they’re all the same. Yet that couldn’t be further from the truth! In reality, with two major families (Cervinae and Capreolinae) and numerous subcategories, there’s a significant degree of variety within the overarching US deer population.
These differences aren’t trivial either. Aside from differences in their appearance, each type of deer lives in different areas, and weighs different amounts, and so on. It’s up to you to learn as much as possible about the specific type of deer you’ll be hunting.
Do that and you stand a much better shot at having a successful hunt! Understanding your prey will help you find, identify, track, and kill it with greater effectiveness. You’ll know where to look, what to look for, how to move, and what gear will be required for the job.
Strike a Balance With Gear
The next step is to get your hands on all the equipment you’ll need on the hunt. Alas, with no shortage of necessary gear, clothing, and accessories to acquire, this particular shopping trip can be expensive! Want our advice?
As a newbie, try to strike a balance between affordability and functionality. The last thing you want is to overspend on pieces of equipment you may never use again! But nor do you want to purchase anything that’s unfit for purpose.
You tend to get what you pay for in life, so spending more than you might want to on hunting equipment can pay off down the line. The resulting quality will keep you safer, comfier, and more effective when you’re hunting in the middle of nowhere. With that said, let’s move onto a few of the specific items and pieces of apparel you’ll need…
Decide Your Weapon
It goes without saying that you’ll need to take a weapon on the hunt! The real question is which weapon to take. In general, this is the choice between a rifle (with a scope) and a bow.
Most newbies opt for a rifle because it’s a) easier to use, b) more versatile (AKA you can take down larger game), and c) enables you to shoot from a distance. However, if you’re already adept at shooting a bow, then you’ll enjoy the longer hunting season, peace and quiet, and the challenge involved with bow hunting. All things considered, we recommend starting with a rifle and then transitioning to the bow as you improve at hunting.
Don’t Forget Scent Control
One of the hardest parts of hunting for beginners is masking your scent. Indeed, deer have an incredible sense of smell, which means it’s essential to cover your scent up before and during the hunt. Only then will you evade detection and get into a good enough position to make the kill.
There’s a lot to think about here! For instance, you should never wash your hunting clothes using a perfumed detergent; a neutral scent’s essential. Then, on the hunt itself, you’ll need to consider the wind direction and remain downwind of the deer as much as possible.
As far as actual equipment goes, though, you should purchase a scent eliminating spray with which to cover yourself on the move. You could also acquire a clever contraption called an ‘ozone generator’, which emits particles that mask your scent.
Pick a Hunting Knife
Taking a knife on a hunt is crucial. Never venture out into the wild without one! They’re vital in the field, helping with everything from skinning a kill to chopping wood for a fire and cutting rope for a shelter.
The trickier part is picking the right hunting knife for the job. Trust us, there are so many different styles and types available nowadays that picking one can be a challenge. In general, though, you’re choosing between fixed-blade and folding knives.
For a stronger blade that’s easier to clean, we recommend fixed-blade models. But if you’d prefer something smaller, easier to transport, and convenient, then folding-blades are better. Oh, and you’ll want what’s called a ‘drop point’ blade to facilitate skinning your kills.
Take a First-Aid Kit
Hunting involves spending day after day in the great outdoors. You’re navigating tough terrain, setting camp, and using firearms and knives every step of the way. The result?
Cuts, bruises, bumps, trips, and falls are common! Having a well-stocked first-aid kit is imperative for handling any minor issues that arise. Field-dressings, pain medication, antibacterial wipes, and band-aids are just a few of the things we recommend taking.
Of course, you should learn how to apply a field dressing before you leave as well. You never know if/when that insight will come in handy.
You’ll need a full stock of high-quality camping gear if you’re going on multi-day hunts too. Among other things, be sure to pack a waterproof tent, sleeping bag (that’s suitable for the night-time temperature), sleeping pad, camping stove, mess kit, and compass. Don’t forget your head-torch either.
They’re super important when you’re setting camp, cooking dinner, or using the bathroom after sundown. Finding one with a red light setting will preserve your night vision too.
Consider the Weather When Buying Apparel
The precise clothing you need on a hunt depends on the weather. For instance, there’s no point taking a lightweight camo vest and shorts if you’ll be hunting in the snow! That might be suitable for warm-weather hunting, but you’d want thick bibs, extra clothes, shooting gloves, a facemask, insulated boots, and a camouflaged waterproof jacket (among others) at colder, wetter times of the year.
That’s why it’s so important to check the weather conditions for the duration of your hunting trip before you leave home. This should enable you to pack the right clothing and remain warm and dry enough during the trip. As far as the style and color of your clothing go, camo clothing (including the infamous ghillie suit) is key to staying out of sight.
Remember Your Insect Repellent
A lot of things can ruin a hunting trip, with bad weather and faulty equipment being two primary culprits. However, few situations are quite as dire as forgetting your insect repellent! Many hunters learn the hard way how ticks, mosquitos, gnats, and other biting bugs can make the whole experience unbearable; some insects can even make you ill.
Now, you can always expect insects to feature in the hunting experience. Yet packing a strong, proven insect repellent should lessen their impact and stop them from causing too much trouble.
Scout the Territory Beforehand
Some hunters head straight into a new hunting block without scouting it out beforehand. And we don’t blame them! There’s something exciting about slinging a rifle across your chest and venturing somewhere new with no prior experience of the terrain.
It’s intrepid! But it’s definitely not the best way to get results. You could end up somewhere with minimal deer activity, or in challenging terrain that’s impossible to navigate through.
Scouting out a potential block before the actual hunt should prevent that from happening. Like a theatre group doing a dress rehearsal, you have a chance to do a run-through before the big day. It takes time, but you can explore the land and identify both where to go and where to avoid; when the day of the hunt arrives, you can head straight to the hotspots.
Don’t Forget These Deer Hunting Tips for Beginners
Few outdoor activities are as rewarding as deer hunting. It’s an exhilarating, primal experience that you only have to try once to catch the bug! Unless that is, you fail to prepare well-enough in advance…
Heading into the wild with all the gear but no idea is a recipe for frustration, discomfort, and disillusionment. With any luck, the deer hunting tips for beginners in this article will help you avoid that fate! Educate yourself on the craft, figure out what you need to do (and take) to be successful, and you’re sure to enjoy a more fruitful first-time hunting experience.
Are you looking to step your hunting game up another notch or two? Search ‘hunting’ above to read further articles on this subject.