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Good Hunting Habits For The Upcoming Deer Season

With each new season, the bow hunter’s thoughts are brimming with the hope of arrowing a quality buck – and hopefully a couple of them.

I’ve learned a lot from over four decades of deer hunting. Further, I continue to take in a ton of hunting information from many sources such as books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. I can’t seem to get enough.

I also put in a lot of time toward this goal throughout the year. That said, I often have to stop and remember my true goal; to improve as a hunter. To achieve this, I’ve found that I have to not only learn new things but be resolute about employing the basics already learned.

We all lead busy family and work lives, yet find time to do “deer chores” during the season and off-season. We cumulatively learn facts, tactics, and habits that enhance our deer hunting success. The question is, “do we always employ them?” In the spirit of following through, be steadfast in exercising some or all of these simple hunting tips. They just might lead to backstrap and bone this coming season.

It’s smart to pattern the deer… after all, they’re patterning you.

For the Record

Trends matter. If you spend a lot of hours in the field scouting and hunting, build a data set and leverage it. When you have an encounter with a buck (especially mature ones), document it.

There is so much valuable information at your disposal; entry and exit locations, weather conditions, and dates. Maintaining a hunting journal can help in this area.

Trail cameras are obviously another way to gather such intel. Don’t just gather this info – organize it and use it. Better yet, examine this data across years. Use this methodology to pattern the deer. After all, they’re often patterning you.

Dive in Then Step Back

Be diligent during the off-season to identify where the doe and buck bedding areas are located. This is much more than guesswork. You have to put in the time scouting to figure out where those spots are located. Boots on the ground, as they say.

Deer movement is going to be happening to and from these locations as they seek food, water and nutrients. Once you identify these areas, mark them on the map and use the information thoughtfully.

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Late in the off-season and early in the season, step back from this area and observe. Long range surveillance is an effective way to sharpen hunting strategies before busting in and educating the deer in the prime areas. If you’re not solely a bow hunter, take your rifle for such sits during the early season period.

It’s of utmost importance to identify the deer bedding areas on property you will be hunting. Deer will move to and from these areas.

The Early Bird…

archery bow at first light
It’s worth getting out of bed a little earlier so you can be in your stand or blind earlier to let the woods settle down before shooting light.

Get to your stand earlier. Yeah, we all often threaten to do this. Actually, some hunters consistently do. It’s amazing how beneficial it can be to get settled in a half-hour or more earlier for morning sits.

Remember that this is an active period for deer movement too and the more time you give a core hunting area to calm down, the better. Think hard about this one before hitting the snooze button. Obviously, the same concept goes for evening hunts.

Don’t Wear Out Your Welcome

We all have preferred go-to spots. We find them preferable because they typically grace us with consistent deer sightings. Make good timing your goal and don’t over-pressure your core areas prior to the primetime periods of the season, such as the rut.

In addition to the rut, aim to hunt these areas when weather conditions are favorable. This one can be hard, as we don’t all have the luxury of picking our hunting times. However, show patience and, if possible, don’t talk yourself into this rookie mistake.

Do You See a Pattern?

As mentioned above, deer certainly do. Be prepared this coming season to make smart exits from your stand in both the morning and evening. This means not being so lax that you carelessly tromp across crops, food plots and heavy deer trails.

Good stand location isn’t worth much if deer are constantly aware of your entry and exit. Leverage the cover you have and, to the extent possible, exit your stand and property away from these areas; even if it means more steps. Chalk it up as needed exercise. If you’re anything like me, you can probably use it.

As far as your stand goes, set it against or within cover. Additionally, add structure to it with cut branches and other brush. This goes for elevated tree stands and ground blinds alike.

Remember that it’s easy to educate deer even after dark. Break up your position and movement to avoid being patterned.

Making No Scents

Up your cover scent game. Though smart deer hunters take the scent they emit seriously, most can improve. Play the wind and take proper care of your gear from a scent perspective. Don’t fail to fully acknowledge what you’ve known for a long time; deer have an incredible sense of smell.

Wind direction often changes, so use a good cover scent. I’ve had outstanding success with Texas Hunting Products’ Scent Guardian. In fact, it’s saved me from myself on a few occasions.

a hunter holding a hunting bow
In addition to staying quiet in the stand, you should also be in stealth mode when using entry and exits routes to and from your stand or blind.

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet

Elmer Fudd had it right. Clank, tink, thud. I’ve been guilty of letting these and other sounds resonate from my stand many times. Patience is a virtue and the same can be said for silence – total silence.

Make tweaks to your bow, quiver, seat, ladder, and calls. Cover, grease, tighten, or loosen exposed metal or plastic as much as possible – everything you can think of. Either tighten down your gear bag – or move it away as far as possible. I could write a paragraph on binoculars alone…

Finally, when one of these sounds occur, strive to not follow it with voluminous cursing. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here too.

Be the Shot

Well, that’s a little dramatic. However, it is advantageous to fully plan for various shots before they happen. For each particular shot possibility, make sure you’re clear of obstructions when raising your rifle or drawing your bow. Don’t just mentally estimate it, physically test it regardless of weapon.

a hunters hands holding deer antlers
Is just as important to be mindful of “how” you call as it is “when” you call when trying to entice a whitetail into shooting range.

Call, Don’t Yell

Hunting television features many savvy deer hunters for sure. Seasoned hunting celebrities can make calling big whitetails so incredibly attractive. For those of us that have harvested deer due to our calling sequences know how gratifying it is. As such, it can be easy to overdo it.

Much like deciding when to draw your bow, exhibit patience with both grunt tube and rattling antlers. It’s easy to get over-zealous with them and it can absolutely crush shot opportunities. If a buck appears to be coming your way, let him come. Obviously, don’t call if he is at alert and certainly if he is looking in your direction.

Whether 2019 has public or private land hunting in store for you, or even suburban hunting, it probably won’t be as easy as you think. That’s not a bad thing. If whitetail hunting was easy, it wouldn’t be the great institution it is. Many novice and seasoned hunters go years without taking the kind of deer they’re seeking.

It’s important to continue to learn and improve as a hunter. However, regardless of skill and experience level, embracing the basics will greatly increase your chance of filling both your tags and freezer. It’s has a lot to do with following through. I know it does for this deer hunter.

jerald kopp of first light hunting journal
Jerald Kopp of 1st Light Hunting Journal and Empowerment Outfitter Network.

Jerald Kopp

Jerald Kopp is an avid outdoorsman and is President of the 1st Light Hunting Journal. He has a passion for hunting whitetail deer and writes primarily about various hunting strategies as well as the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald eastablished the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) in 2005, which is a faith-based, non-profit organization providing hunting opportunities for children and youth that are disabled and terminally ill. Jerald is based in Texas and enjoys spending time travelling with his wife Amy as well as his two adult daughters.

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