DEER HUNTING: QUICK HITS
Take your deer hunting and safety courses, read books, attend seminars, and do everything you can to learn more about deer and hunting.
You can be a meat hunter, or a trophy hunter. You can’t be both. But generally, meat hunters become good faster, and the trophy buck will eventually show up.
Buy a deer rifle that you like.
Practice shooting at 30 yards. If you group your shots well at 30 yards, you will have no trouble at 50, 75, or 100 yards.
Practice, practice, practice, until it becomes instinctive. Don’t go into the woods with new, untried equipment.
Scout the woods, year-round. Find the runways in deer yards, by driving country roads and logging roads, walking railroad tracks, skidder roads, power lines, and ski-doo trails.
Walk the runways in spring and summer, checking the tracks and droppings. Learn to discern buck, doe and fawn tracks and judge the amount of traffic. As fall progresses, keep checking to see whether traffic patterns are changing.
It’s been said that deer are color blind. I don’t know that, but plenty of deer have walked right up to us while we were decked out in bright orange. I do know that they react to movement and scent, so camouflage might be helpful to the extent that it disguises movement.
Size of droppings is an accurate predictor of the size of the deer.
The fall rut makes the bucks a little crazy and careless. Locate the does, and you will find the bucks.
The deer are always in the woods, so rushing out in pitch-black early morning isn’t necessary, nor particularly safe. Take your time and be patient. If you know where to look for the deer, you will find them. Go out when you can see where you’re going.
When hunting off a runway in the woods, back off the runway as much as possible so you can see the deer and identify buck or doe. Give yourself a good shooting lane, free of branches.
A deer running toward you can be “whoa-ed” for a better shot.
Whitetail react very quickly to eye contact—look for pins quickly, then moves your eyes to the kill zone.
Be patient and careful with your first shot—if that one misses, your chances of hitting with subsequent shots are not good. Let the deer come to you, for the best shot. Tracking a wounded deer is not fun.
If you do wound a deer, make every effort to find that deer—all other hunting for the group is suspended, and all energy goes toward finding that deer.
It is irresponsible to try to push the time limits by shooting when it is too dark to see pins clearly or to guarantee a good shot. This is when you are likely to make a mistake—that’s why it’s illegal.
Make sure you kill the animal quickly and well. If in doubt, pound him again. Never let an animal suffer. Even with an extra hole in the deer, the meat is still good.
Deer can be dangerous when down. Approach from the rear, so that it would have to turn around to hurt you. Look it over well, and throw a stick or stone at it. If its legs are still partially under it, your best move is to put one more shot into a vital area. This is your deer, this becomes your choice, do it right: never lose a deer because you tried to save a bullet.
To get maximum weight for your deer, weigh it as quickly as you can after the kill, and don’t remove the tenderloin. Prizes have been won by a few ounces.
In our hunting area, a prize-winning doe dresses out at 130-140 lbs. We shot one that dressed out at 152, in the 1970’s.
We consider a buck that dresses out at 170 lbs. or more to be in the trophy class. If your buck dresses out over 200 lbs., register it in every contest you can—it could pay off with some good prizes, even if you don’t win. Two of our bucks have gathered $3,000 and $1,500, respectively, in money and equipment, the only time we ever chose to register.
If you measure the beam of the antlers from the outside to the outside, rather than taking an inside measurement, you will have much better bragging rights.