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whitetail buck standing in field

Don’t Hunt Like A Rookie | Avoid These Deer Hunting Mistakes

People hunt for many reasons, including sport, culture, and food. No matter what reason you’ve taken up hunting, you’re likely hoping to become the most proficient hunter you can be. We’re going to help you out by discussing the rookie mistakes that many new hunters make so that you can be ahead of the curve on your next hunt.

Lack of Weapons Practice

Proper marksmanship is necessary for any competent hunter. You need to be proficient with any of the firearms or bow hunting equipment that you may bring with you on a hunt so that you’re prepared no matter what weapon you choose.

Spend ample time at a shooting range to perfect your shot with different targets. You’ll also want to vary your weapon choice with each hunt so that you gain experience in the woods with all of your firearms.

If you’re looking for a weapon that’s smaller than a rifle, consider using a pistol as your primary hunting firearm. An AR-15 pistol can be the perfect addition to your gear pack in this case. An AR-15 pistol is much smaller and lighter weight than a rifle, freeing up space in your pack for additional gear.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! You should be proficient using any weapon that you plan to hunt with.

Over-hunting One Area

whitetail buck in velvet
Deer have an incredible sense of smell. You must avoid over-hunting one particular spot until the time is right, or the deer may pattern you and avoid that area altogether.

Most of us don’t own acres of property on which to scout and set up stands. If you’re like the average hunter, you probably hunt on public land or on private land with the owner’s permission, or even in suburban areas.

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Because many of us don’t have endless options at our disposal, we end up with one or two areas that we go back to season after season. The problem with this is that going back to the same location every year can result in a reduced chance of making a kill.

It may seem like going to the same area year after year would give you a chance to get to know the area more intimately, increasing your chances of finding game each time. The truth is that the deer in that area get better at avoiding you with every season you hunt there.

This is true during a single season as well. If you set up your tree stand in one area and never move, you might possibly bag a buck or two. But, once you move into an area, deer will view that area as a dangerous space. So, the longer you stay and hunt in that area, the more potential you have for driving away the very deer you are trying to harvest.

Your best bet is to travel the area you plan to hunt as little as possible until you are ready to actually hunt it. Carefully plan your entry and exit routes to and from your deer stand or blind location.

Depending Too Much on High-Tech Gear

Hunting gear and accessories are getting better every year, to the delight of hunters everywhere. Marketing makes it seem like all of this gear is necessary for a successful hunt. The truth is, all of the gear in the world can’t replace skill and experience. While laser scopes and other accessories will give you an edge, they can’t replace the skills required for hunting, tracking and harvesting deer.

Remember, people have been hunting for thousands of years without any of the technological advancements we have today. Skill and experience are more important than any piece of gear you can purchase for a hunt.

Relying heavily on technology can also go wrong if that technology malfunctions. For instance, marking a certain spot on your GPS can be incredibly helpful unless that GPS stops working. This is why you should be able to back up any high-tech solutions with manual work. If you mark a spot on a GPS, take the time to mark it on a physical map as well. 

Don’t rely too heavily on specialized gear and gadgets when hunting. Your mind is one of your greatest assets.

Lack of Patience

The anticipation of making a kill can make you forget that sitting in a stand can be incredibly boring. It’s often hours before any game come along, and you’re left just sitting there waiting until something happens to come your way.

It can be tempting to get distracted by your phone or a book and lose track of what’s happening in the woods around you. While having means of entertainment makes the time go by faster, it can also prevent you from noticing when a game animal walks into range. You don’t want to hear a deer noise, look up and realize that the deer has already seen you!

If you choose to bring any sort of entertainment to pass the time, make sure that you don’t get too absorbed in it. Look up from your phone or book frequently so that you don’t miss anything that walks into your field of vision. 

Waiting Too Long To Take a Shot

You may be waiting in the stand for hours for a target deer to pass you by. When it finally happens, you may be waiting too long for the perfect shot before doing anything.

The problem with waiting for the “perfect shot” is you may end up letting a perfectly ethical shot slip away because you were indecisive. Now, the last thing you want to do is take a reckless shot that leads to wounding an animal and causing it to suffer unnecessarily. However, some hunters wait a little too long and get busted before having a chance to harvest the deer.

Keep an eye on the target as soon as it walks into your field of vision. Carefully track it with your rangefinder, if you use one, or your sight. As soon as the target is within range and you have a clear shot, take it.

Be sure to take an ethical shot, but don’t let your chance slip away due to indecision.

Not Reading the Wind

Many hunting rookies fail to read the wind when hunting. Wind can factor into shot angles, scent trails, and the direction that game travels. Reading the wind is as important as assessing any other environmental factors, such as game signs or elevation. If you don’t have experience reading the wind, or any other natural signs for that matter, take the time to gain this skill. You can research how to read the wind or ask a more experienced hunter for advice.

Gaining this skill will make you a much stronger hunter in the future. It will take some time to perfect it, but be worth it when you’re able to use this skill on a hunt.

Leaving Scent Behind

deer on high alert
Pay attention to wind direction and do everything possible to not leave human scent in the area you will be hunting. Human scent will put deer on high alert.

This is one of the most common rookie mistakes in the hunting world. Leaving human scent behind is a surefire way to ensure that game avoids the area where you’ve been.

Game animals learn to avoid human scent, as they regard humans as predators and smell is one of deer’s strongest senses. Anywhere that human scent is, game will try to avoid in the future.

Leaving human scent can be catastrophic in an area that you hunt frequently. It may result in not seeing any more game during the rest of the season, which can be devastating if that is your only hunting location. So, if you continually leave lots of scent in your hunting area, deer will simply avoid that area as they move to and from food, water and nutrient locations.

There are a slew of products on the market that are made to reduce the human scent present in your skin and on your clothes. There are also some free steps you can take to minimize your scent.

First, don’t wear any artificial scents such as cologne and don’t shower with scented soap right before you go out.

Another handy tip is to gather debris such as fallen leaves and dirt in a bag and put your field clothes in that bag. This will help your clothes take on a natural scent and lessen its obvious human scent. It’s also good to avoid flowery detergents when washing your hunting clothes.

Not Recognizing Good Days and Patterns

Experienced hunters can recognize when a favorable day for hunting rolls around. This could be types of weather such as cold fronts and rain.

rainy deer hunting weather
Storm fronts that come through your hunting area could produce an increase in deer movement. Learn how weather patterns affect your deer herd.

Pay attention to the rut. This is a key facet of the hunting season and it will tell you a lot about a buck’s behavior. Before the rut, bucks often stay in bachelor groups, but by the time the rut hits, there’s going to be a lot of competition between bucks. Their behavior will tell you a lot about where and how to hunt.

Using Scents Incorrectly

We already touched on the fact that deer have a strong sense of smell. Because of this, many hunters use scents like doe estrous. A common mistake is that this scent is dumped in one spot and the hunter waits. However, this isn’t always convincing enough to entice the buck of a lifetime to approach.

Instead, you should use a drag. This lets out the scent in more natural way and you can use it to lead bucks close to your stand. When you do this, opt for a pair of latex gloves. This will make sure that the scent from your hands isn’t left behind with the trail your setting. Some scents are best with other strategies such as in mock scrapes.

Scents also need to be used at the right time. While you can get away with using doe or buck urine during the whole season, doe estrous is most effective during the beginning or end of the rut. All in all, you’re going to want to do plenty of research when you’re considering using scents. Be sure you’re using scents at the appropriate time to avoid spooking the very deer you are trying to harvest.

Conclusion

So, even if you’re a rookie hunter, you don’t have to hunt like one. While hunting is a sport and pastime that takes a lot of skill and experience, you can jump past many of these beginner hurdles and start your first season off right. Good luck and shoot straight!

Josh Montgomery is founder of Minute Man Review.
suburban whitetail buck in field

Urban Deer Hunting… The Entertaining, Challenging, and Useful Suburban Whitetail

-By Jerald Kopp

The abrupt honk startled me.

Unbeknownst to me, I had slowed the truck to a crawl as I surveyed the thick urban wood lot. Suffice to say, the car behind me didn’t appreciate it.

The greenbelt sat behind a gas station and next to a small pocket neighborhood. I had caught a glimpse of a familiar resident… It was “Shaggy,” a disheveled old buck that still donned his velvet on the early December day.

But it wasn’t his set of antlers that justified his nickname, rather his mangy and matted coat. Shaggy always had a bad hair day – at least for the last couple of years. He wasn’t seen often, but this section was his core bedding area and the number of fender benders I almost caused here were too many to count.

shaggy the suburban buck
“Shaggy” is just one of a growing population of whitetails in suburban areas around the country.

Urban and Suburban Deer: A growing segment of the whitetail population

Urban and Suburban deer have been multiplying around the country for years. Even though hunting them is illegal in my hometown of Austin, Texas, deer nerds like me are always on the lookout for them. In fact, during the pre-rut and rut, I see an amazing number of shooter bucks within a four-block radius of my house alone. The untouchables I call them.

I’ve learned every wooded and semi-wooded area in my part of town and survey them regularly. I’ve also discovered various bedding areas, funnels, and trails in this mostly concrete jungle.

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I’m told I need to get a life, but I’m okay with that.

I have a friend (who will remain nameless) that has long since been known for his bow hunting escapades in suburban Austin. A commercial real estate professional, he’s never had a shortage of unoccupied greenbelt sections to visit with his bow in hand. He was once known for his common strategy of putting on camo over his dress clothes for impromptu bow sits.

I’m not a proponent of law-breaking but have to admit that I loved his stories. Plus, much of Austin is mired in a massive overpopulation of whitetails. Some areas are so crowded with deer that many live an unhealthy existence.

For me, this softened my friend’s violation. Conservation and herd management indeed.

Urban Deer Hunting | Tougher Than You Think

Suburban deer hunting presents unique challenges. I get a kick out of the common misconception that these deer are tame and, hence are easy to hunt. Consequently, the idea has been cultivated that all deer are easy to hunt and it’s not hunting at all. This mindset largely comes from some of the city dwellers that encounter them (many of them of course, anti-hunters).

When it comes to bucks (especially mature ones), this couldn’t be further from the truth.

urban deer standing in driveway
Just because you might see them in the “wide open,” doesn’t mean suburban deer are easy to hunt.

How do they hide in plain sight?

I’m still astounded by the random sightings of huge bucks in my neighborhood; often seemingly new ones. On many occasions, I’ve sat in my truck dumbfounded asking myself, where has this buck been all this time?

Sure, there are the deer groups often seen on manicured lawns. However, it’s not always the case, especially with mature bucks.

Despite living amid constant human activity, urban deer no doubt have people patterned. It has much to do with familiarity and hunting them is another matter altogether.

Just like in rural settings, changes in human activity promptly throws a wrench in whitetail tendencies.

“It will truly give you a new appreciation for what a deer will tolerate in its daily life. And, how quickly when one small thing steps out of that “normal” routine, a deer will take notice and alter its behavior in order to figure out what’s going on,” says Taylor Chamberlin of the Urban Deer Complex 2.0.

Tyler and his outfit tenaciously study and pursue the urban whitetail in the Washington, D.C. area – another region that houses an exorbitant number of deer.

If Urban Hunting is legal where you live, grab the stick and string

Currently, there are many successful urban and suburban deer hunters around the country in areas where it’s legal to bow hunt them. In fact, suburban bow hunting now represents a popular niche in the outdoor industry, social media, and outdoor culture, and it should come as no surprise.

The ability to live in a setting full of consistent human activity adds more proof to the resiliency of the whitetail deer.

It’s astonishing the number of trophy class bucks that are taken a stone’s throw from playscapes, soccer practices, and strip centers. If you pay attention to hunting-related social media and other channels, you will no doubt hear stories about huge bucks taken within, if not near city limits.

There is no better example of such success than Lee Ellis and Drew Carroll of Seek One Productions who has had incredible deer hunting success right in the suburbs of Atlanta. In fact, they’ve taken bucks of massive proportions – bona fide trophy class whitetails.  

“Our goal is to show people that adventure is not constrained to wild remote places and that hunting is not defined by big woods and rural parts of the country,” said Ellis. He continued, “If you look hard enough, adventure can be found in the most unexpected places and can become part of your everyday life like it has for us”.

Suburban Hunting Tips

deer on sidewalk
Even if hunting with a bow and arrow is allowed in your suburban area, be sure to still obtain the proper permissions before hunting whitetail.

Deer hunting within and near cities and towns isn’t easy and takes work.

First, it’s difficult to get hunting permission and requires persistence. Be prepared to ask and ask again. Your odds are greatly increased if you can procure permissions on contiguous sections.

When hunting and scouting, it’s important to locate the areas with the best cover and better yet, their associated pinch-points. Think low impact. Drive the roadways and be willing to glass from both roadsides and parking lots before you ever attempt to set up a blind or deer stand. Deer are much more used to vehicles in these settings.

If they exist in or within the city limits, examine fields from a distance (especially agriculture). Finally, keep your ears open. Much like in the country, the rumor mill is powerful. This is a good way to get info on good area bucks.

Leveraging Suburban Deer Intel for Rural Hunting Success

Finally, use suburban deer behavior (and hunting) to your advantage. It can be beneficial to your more remote hunting pursuits.

Urban and suburban deer hunting provides an opportunity to study deer behavior without heading to the ranch, lease or public hunting area. I’ve often said that my neighborhood is my classroom with lessons and experiences at the ready. As a whitetail hunter and enthusiast, it’s a gift. Simply observe and you’ll become a more proficient and educated hunter.

While there are differences in hunting near the city limits vs. more remote grounds, there are similarities as well. I’ve found that monitoring deer behavior in mine and other Austin neighborhoods has helped my rural hunting immensely.

On numerous occasions, I’ve seen first-hand the beginning of the rut in my ‘hood – heck sometimes even in my cul-de-sac. The year 2018 was no different. It had an earlier rut period than in previous years. I woke one early November day to find that the switch had indeed been flipped. Many amorous, persistent and committed bucks were on their feet. This deer hunting geek was stoked.

It didn’t take me long to pack the truck and drive the two hours to our family farm to take advantage of the opportunity. And it paid off. Yes, all those reports predicting an early rut were true and I had first-hand proof – and time to strike. Game on.

Hunting in urban settings also presents an opportunity to practice analyzing deer sign, trails, and calling skills – and become a better hunter.

Finally, there are other benefits of hunting in urban areas, including herd management, recreation, and positive economic impact on local communities. From an outdoor tradition, legacy, and conservation standpoint it also widens hunting’s (particularly bow hunting’s) reach and footprint.

Though I won’t hold my breath, I hope to be able to bow hunt whitetails in the greater Austin area someday. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be entertained and educated by them.

On the other hand, if you live in an urban or suburban area where it’s legal, do your research and get after it. You may be surprised by what you find.

jerald kopp of first light hunting journal
Jerald Kopp of 1st Light Hunting Journal. Be sure to check out some of his whitetail strategies.
permanent hunting blind in cotton field

Blind Ambition | Optimal Permanent Deer Stand Placement

I grew up in an era where box blinds were mainly built from scratch. Although there were a couple of companies manufacturing them, it was common to use any leftover lumber we had and buy the rest of what we needed to build them ourselves. I still consider it nostalgic to see old rotted blinds in distant fields.

Today, permanent hunting blinds, sometimes called “box blinds” or “shooting houses,” continue to be a fixture over much of the American landscape. They’re now made for both rifle and bow hunting and provide not only concealment, but protection from the elements.

Whether factory fabricated, or old and rustic, permanent blinds still have their place in the deer woods.

whitetail buck standing in field
Proper blind placement can be the determining factor in taking your target buck.

Permanent Hunting Blind Placement… Why, Where, And When

Perhaps the best trait of permanent blinds over other types of deer stands, is the inherent comfort that comes in handy during extremely cold weather or all-day sits during the rut.

Permanent blinds won’t help you on public hunting land, but for those that hunt private land, permanent hunting blinds are a huge cog in the hunting wheel.

It’s important to carefully consider blind placement at a basic level. There is much more to it than simply locating them over feeders (where legal) and food plots.

First of all, short of the rut, large mature bucks don’t always visit these areas during shooting hours. So, with each prospective spot, ask the simple question, “what reasons do deer have to visit this area.” Asking this question is all the more crucial for bow hunting, where good blind placement can reward you with a short, quality shot.

The off-season is a great time to place new hunting blinds or relocate old ones. But, where should you put them? Whether sitting on the ground or perched on a platform, below are a few considerations for good permanent and semi-permanent blind placement.

Hunt the Food

Let’s get this obvious alternative out of the way first. Whether near acorn-rich oak stands, mast orchards, food plots, or feeders, hunting over or near feeding areas is academic. If such an area has good cover around it, it’s especially ideal for entry and exit routes (for both deer and hunter). This popular method should always be used with at least one of your setups.

There is, however, so much more to consider.

Meet in the Middle

Like with any setup, one of the best hunting strategies regarding blind location is to sit between feeding and bedding areas. Here, it’s much to do about whitetail travel routines.

ground box blind on sloped
Even the slightest elevated terrain can give you better visibility during your hunt.

With a little scouting, these sections aren’t hard to find. However, you should note that sometimes the bedding and feeding area aren’t necessarily on the same property. Either way, once discovered, you can set a permanent stand in the path of the daily migration of a group (or groups) of deer. These honey holes are valuable. Take time to find them. If it’s not evident during the season, make time for off-season scouting sessions in search of them.

Go to New Heights

Higher is better. When considering an area for blind placement, take a little time to look for the highest spot. Though not always noticeable at first, a spot that’s even 5-feet higher than its surroundings is desirable – especially for non-elevated blinds.

Why? Greater height means greater visibility!

Do you hunt on flat terrain? If so, still take time to assess the area. It’s uncanny how the slightest upward slopes are right under your nose. Unless the high spot has other undesirable traits, it’s a good initial alternative to consider.

Higher blind placement is better, because it gives you a greater field of vision over the terrain you’re hunting.

Heavy Trails

It’s no secret that whitetails prefer certain travel routes – often the path of least resistance. Any property frequented by deer will prove this. It’s really just a matter of finding these heavily traversed stretches. Here, a little time on the ground can yield valuable intel.

Check property lines, low creek crossings and the like. If you have deer, you can find their paths of choice.

As such, the more trails you can see from your stand, the better. If you place a stand in view of or close to an area where two or more trails converge, you’ve increased your chances for consistent deer sightings significantly.

Funnels

These days, we hear a lot about funnels or “pinch points.” The term seems to be used quite loosely too. In its most basic sense, these are areas where deer movement is reduced to a smaller section or zone.

Examples are spots where two fields are separated by a narrow section of cover or a thin passage between a creek and woodlot. Permanent stands go well with good funnels because they continue to be dependable travel corridors into the future. Find such areas and you won’t be disappointed.

Cover Your Backside

It can be easy to feel invincible sitting inside a box. But, this is where many hunters, after doing a lot of things right, blow it.

Don’t get so comfortable that you fail to consider what that box looks like from a deer’s line of sight. I’m of course talking about the silhouetting effect, and it’s important to avoid it.

First, make sure that the back of the blind is dark and solid. For example, if there is a window behind you, cover it up. If the back wall is light in color, cover it with paint or cloth.

Box blinds are large and it’s pretty hard to make them vanish. However, in this hunter’s opinion, it’s always good to mask them as much as possible. So, be sure to place the blind against brush and timber, and if possible, just inside the edge of it.

With time, deer do get used to blinds, so, why not have them blend into your surroundings more naturally? This goes into the “why not stack the odds in your favor” category.

hunting blind window and binoculars
The view from inside your permanent hunting blind is just as important as how it looks from the outside.

Inside Information | The View From Within An Elevated Blind

Other than avoiding being silhouetted, there are other considerations once your settled inside the blind.

If you’re inclined to leave any of the windows closed, practice the art of quietly opening and closing them. If rifle hunting, take time to practice the shots you may be inclined to take.

Likewise, for bow hunting, identify the angles in the blind that will be difficult or impossible to shoot from. This means determining the proper height of the shooting opening(s). Additionally, physically practice the possible draw angles that may materialize in the moment.

Finally, place your chair in the optimal position for the most likely shot angle. Determine these obstacles first before you’re suddenly staring into the eyes of a target buck, or maybe even the buck of a lifetime. Most of us know all too well how fast this can happen.

In Conclusion

Locating and harvesting mature whitetail bucks isn’t easy and can take time. But, permanent stands positioned in a variety of logical locations will eventually pay dividends.

Because permanent hunting blinds are typically heavy and bulky, there is plenty of incentive to make placement decisions count. Let’s face it, these structures are not fun to move. So, use your off-season scouting sessions as an opportunity to find some of the areas mentioned above.

Sheltered and comfortable, permanent hunting blinds strategically situated in optimal areas can be productive mainstays on private hunting grounds.

And remember, if hunted smart, they are great scouting venues. Remember that no matter how attractive a given spot is, don’t hunt it at all costs. Be resolute and play the wind. In fact, make it a goal to place them in areas where they can be hunted with different prevailing winds.

Finally, shooting houses provide the perfect venue to share a hunt with a friend or family member right by your side – even in rainy, snowy, or windy conditions. Setting them in these high-percentage areas means action. A win-win.

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