Hunting. The oldest profession known to man.

It’s the primary way humans used to get food. Running through the brush chasing after large animals in search of our next meal. 

With the rise of the agricultural revolution, and now more prominently industrial farming, hunting isn’t something we necessarily need anymore. We have the ability to go to the grocery store and pick our choice cut of meat without breaking a sweat. 

That doesn’t mean hunting is something you should take for granted. In fact, we need hunters more than ever. 

Deer are considered an invasive species in the woods, and without hunters their population tends to explode to unreasonable levels. 

Plus, hunting is a sport, like basketball, baseball, and football. It’s just as physically exhaustive (have you ever tried to carry a 400lb deer 100 yards uphill?) and requires great hand-eye coordination. 

At first glance you may think hunting is a crude and inhumane sport. I mean, you’re killing another animal, right? 

Think again. 

Hunting is a complex and utterly beautiful sport which brings you closer to nature, and to the depths of your own soul. 

Only once you go hunting, get your first kill - and most importantly, eat it - will you understand the beauty of hunting. 

Even if you’re an adult, and you’ve never picked up a rifle before, there’s no better time to learn to hunt then right now. 

It’s a skill that will follow you for the rest of your life. 

With that said, learning to hunt can be rather intimidating when you’re just getting started. 

This article is meant to provide you with everything you need to know to get started. 

We’re going to go deep. My goal is to provide you with everything you need to know so you can get started the right way. Be sure to bookmark this page because as you walk this path, you’ll want to use this guide as a reference. 

Let’s get started. 

How To Start Hunting

There’s something addictive about hunting. It’s the thrill of the chase. Spending days perched in a stand just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. There’s nothing like it. 

Not to mention the food you’ll eat can be both delicious and healthy. In particular elk and deer meat stand alone as great meat when properly cared for. 

A quick word before we begin though: if you’re the type to kill an animal for the sheer thrill of it, only to bag the trophy antlers and leave the full carcass in the wild, you deserve no place in the woods. You’re walking a tight line. 

If on the other hand you value the sanctity of life, and you wish to become closer to your meal while exploring your ancestral heritage. Then welcome friends, you’ve got a strong community to support you. 

Let’s begin with the basics. 

Pick Your Type Of Hunting

There are dozens of methods for hunting, and even more weapons to choose from when you get started. 

Before you can even begin getting started you need to pick a style of hunting that fits you best. 

Why?

Because you’ll need to start practicing with this one style until you get proficient at it. Pick one and master it before moving onto any other forms. 

Here are the 3 main styles you can choose from: 

  • Gun Hunting
  • Muzzleloader Hunting
  • Bow Hunting

In my personal opinion you’ll want to start with gun hunting. It’s the most beginner friendly, and offers a wide range of animals you can hunt for. 

Gun Hunting

Big game or small, gun hunting is the primary choice for hunters worldwide. You can use a shotgun, rifle, or if you’re really brave a handgun.

The differences between the guns boil down to the type of ammunition and barrel used for shooting. 

Shotgun Example: 

As you can see the barrell is relatively long with a smooth bore. The ammunition can either be shot pellets or a single projectile (however these are rare for hunting). 

Shotguns are used for hunting small game like ducks, quail, and even rabbits. 

Rifle Example:

Rifles are often the most used gun for hunting. As you can probably tell the difference between a rifle and a shotgun is the grooving of the barrel. They do this to provide spin to the projectile which creates a straighter flight path for the bullet. 

Rifles can be used for the widest variety of game. From rabbits to water buffalo and everything in between. 

You’ll typically see a bolt action rifle you’ll pull back the firing pin after the bullet is set in place. The ammunition is always going to be single projectile. 

These guns do damage and it’s probably where you’ll want to start. 

Handgun Example:

A handgun is just a shorter rifle. It has the same curved barrel where the bullet will spin when exiting. 

The strength of the bullet will be slightly diminished because of the shorter barrel which causes loss of accuracy and potential stopping power. 

Using a handgun is really only needed as a backup to your rifle, or if you’re in very rough terrain where you need both hands free to travel. This is rare though. 

Muzzleloader Hunting

A muzzleloader is technically any firearm where you load the ammunition through the muzzle. These can also be called blackpowder guns. 

If you ever saw revolutionary war movies like The Patriot, that’s was muzzleloader guns were. 

Here’s an example: 

Basically you’ll use a ramrod to push down blackpowder and the projectile into the muzzle. 

You’ll need to stalk your prey for hours and get very close for the kill. 

Here’s what it looks like when being fired: 

It’s some Oregon Trail style hunting... 

Bow Hunting

Many hunters consider this to be the most fun form of hunting. However it’s a more advanced style typically used by seasoned hunters because it’s harder to get a kill. 

The good news is you typically get a longer season than gun hunters. 

Bow hunting is just archery, but going after game. 

Here’s why bow hunting is considered advanced…

With a strong enough rifle a shot like that is killing this elk. 

Anyways…

There are 3 major types of bows you can use: 

  • Compound Bows
  • Longbows
  • Recurve Bows
Compound Bows

As you can see a compound bow has the ability to create extra tension on the pull back. Normally you’ll need at least a 40lb pull bow for successful deer hunting, although it’s typically recommended at least 60-70lbs for maximum effectiveness. 

If you’re going to go bowhunting, you’re going to want to use a compound bow. It’s a small and compact weapon, but still gets excellent tension for acceleration to create a clean kill. 

Longbows

As the name suggests, a long blow is a large bow to create maximum tension when pulled. It’s going to be a pain to haul around if you go hunting with it. 

Recurve Bows

A recurve bow is the closest to what our ancestors used when hunting themselves. They’re going to be light and easy to carry, which is helpful when hunting.

There’s some serious disadvantages. Like the longbow, you’re going to be limited by your strength of the pull. You can’t leverage wheels and pulleys like a compound bow can for added tension. This means you’ll need serious upper body strength to get a solid shot off. 

It’s great to consider if you’re looking for a more thrilling hunt. 

Like I mentioned in the beginning, it’s recommended you start with rifle hunting. 

Hunter Education

After you pick the type of hunting you prefer, you need to get your hunter education. In nearly all U.S. states you’re required to complete a hunter education and safety class. 

They require this before you can obtain any permit or tags for hunting. It’s also highly recommended to do this before you even start firing your first shot. 

The specific regulations vary by state so you’ll need to double check with your local authorities. 

Beyond doing it because you're legally obligated, it’s a treasure trove of information and mentorship (more on this in a bit).

They will provide the basic knowledge for handling a rifle safely. Most importantly they drill into that safety is the number 1 priority. Something you’ll be thankful for down the road. 

Plus, in nearly all the training I’ve seen or been a part of, you’ll get the chance to fire a couple rounds with either your new firearm, or the ones they provide. 

In addition to the firearm training, they’re going to introduce you to the terminology and the laws regarding guns, and animals. 

For example, they’ll give you the details of storing, transporting, and owning guns or bows; plus, rules about tags, game seasons, size regulations for the animals, and licenses to pay attention to. 

Some I personally learned when I first started hunting was just how much authority and power a fish and wildlife officer has! Their arrest powers are state wide, and they’re legally allowed to enter private property to look for animals. 

Obviously after this course you won’t be fully ready to hunt, but it’s the best starting point for new hunters. 

So take this course as your first step! 

Start Training & Learning To Hunt

Once you’ve gone through the hunter education process it’s time to start your firearm training. 

You wouldn’t expect to walk up to the plate and hit a homerun without getting a lot of practice swings in, would you?

Then don’t expect to be a good shot without putting in the hours. 

Truth be told, this is the hardest part of hunting. 

Why?

Because you’re going to be practicing for a long time without actually bagging a kill. 

And there’s a lot to learn…

For instance: 

  • Stance
  • Grip
  • Aiming
  • Trigger Control
  • Safe Gun Handling
  • Gun cleaning
  • Malfunction clearing
  • Gun knowledge
  • Breathing techniques
  • And much more…

At the end of the day, marksmanship is the one skill that will (literally) bring home the bacon.

You can do everything perfect, but if you miss the shot, you’re going home empty handed. That’s why training is so vital. 

I’m going to talk about the basics, but if you’re really interested you need to get 1-on-1 training with a dedicated instructor. They’ll provide you with so much more guidance than I can do with this one article. 

Here are the basics…

Eye Dominance

You need to determine if you’re a left-handed or right-handed shooter, and it has nothing to do with which hand you write with. If you’re right-eye dominant, you’ll hold the rifle in your right shoulder pocket looking with your right eye, and vice versa for left eye dominant. 

The dominant eye will be the one you use to look down range through the rifle’s sights or scope. The goal is to have your gun lined up directly with the target you're shooting. 

 Here’s a good video to help you determine which eye is dominant: 

Shoulder Pocket

This is the place for your rifle butt to press against when you’re shooting. You WILL need to learn this as your start using more powerful rifles. You can get away with improper position with less powerful firearms, however it’s best to learn the proper way first. 

Typically your shoulder pocket is between your chest and the start of your shoulder blade. You’ll know you hit the correct spot if you can press heavily on the portion without feeling any pain. If you do that, then you’ve found your shoulder pocket!

Touch Your Cheek

You’ll want to have the gun close to your face, basically having your cheek touch the butt of the rifle, to allow your dominant eye to see down the scope.  

You don’t want to strain your eyes when trying to look down the sight.

Here’s a good video to help explain:

Stance

The last thing you want to have happen is shooting your rifle and falling backwards. You risk causing a misfire which can hurt you and others. 

That’s why stance is absolutely vital, and you need to know the different stances available to you. 

As a hunter, you’ll be travelling over bushes, rocks, and other uneven terrain. You’ll never know when the animal is going to appear, so you need to have a variety of different stances to use when out in the field. 

There are 4 basic stances: 

  1. Standing
  2. Kneeling
  3. Sitting
  4. Prone

Something to remember when going through these stances: the closer your gun is to the ground. The more stable your shot.

With that said, let’s go from least stable to most stable. 

Standing

Here’s a good image of the proper standing position. 

Your non-dominant foot is forward holding about 60% of your weight. Knees are slightly bent to absorb recoil, and gun placement allows for easy maneuvering. 

Kneeling

This is what you’ll want to look like when kneeling. You’ll create a base on your dominant foot, with additional stability on your non-dominant foot. Then you use your non-dominant foot as a way to help steady your rifle when shooting. 

Sitting

This is the firing position using the crossed ankle form. This is my personal favorite because it creates a little more stability at the center of your body. 

Read above for the correct points.

Prone

This position is the most stable one you can use when shooting downfield. However, it’s difficult to get into this position because of vegetation and other obstacles in the way. 

If you’re able to build a prone position though, use it!

If you’re interested in learning more about stances, here’s an awesome video for reference: 

Go To A Shooting Range

For some reason people can be fickle about going to the shooting range. Often I’ll get asked questions like: “Will everyone know I’m new?” or “What happens if I’m stuck and don’t know what to do?” or even “Will people laugh at me or judge me for going?”

Look - I get it. If you had those questions yourself then you’re not alone. I think everyone sees the shooting range as an intimidating experience. 

Truth is, it’s a very enjoyable experience if you’re prepared correctly. 

There are 2 kinds of ranges you can go to: 

  • Indoor
  • Outdoor

I recommend you do a little research on the different kinds of ranges in your particular area before making a choice. 

If you’re looking to get hunting specific practice, then I would highly recommend going to an outdoor range. 

Why? 

Because you can typically get longer distance for your practice, and most of the time outdoor ranges allow for rifles to be used. 

Here a breakdown of the two kinds of ranges even more: 

Indoor

You’ve probably already seen what an indoor gun range looks like. You walk into a main lobby area where the reps will lead you into a sectioned off portion of the building where you go into a “booth” like space for shooting. 

Indoor ranges tend to be short. Usually a max of 50 yards. You’ll also often only see people practicing their pistol work from a standing position. 

I love this video when talking about the range: 

Outdoor

There isn’t nearly as much information about outdoor ranges compared to indoor ranges. 

That’s okay, because for the most part the etiquette and rules concerning the two different ranges are nearly identical. 

You’ll typically be assigned a bay to start shooting. 

The big difference is getting your targets out. For example, there are outdoor ranges with distances upwards of 300 yards. Unlike an indoor range, there’s no pulley system to help get that target out to the shooting distance. 

That’s why there’s a term called: “cease fire”. This is when there’s no firing allowed for a period of time, which helps you go and check on your target. 

Because of the distance outdoor ranges offer, you’ll see more rifle shooters or hunters in general there. 

Here’s a good video to help provide additional clarity: 

Get Hunting Gear

If you got your rifle, and you’ve got a little training in, you’re probably ready to get the gear you need to start hunting. 

Before I get too deep into the gear you’ll need, let me preface this by saying: You absolutely do NOT need to buy this gear before you start hunting. I only offer it as a recommendation based on my previous experience. 

Literally thousands of animals have been harvested by hunters with little to no gear. 

Let’s start with the most basic…

Knife

You need a knife. Every hunter should have a good quality knife when they’re hiking the woods. Either a folding knife, or a fixed knife, it doesn’t matter, but you need to have a quality blade on you at all times. 

From cleaning game to self-protection, a knife will prove invaluable to you through thick and thin. 

Bright Orange Safety Clothing 

Unless you’re hunting waterfowl, you need to have orange on you to help other hunters immediately know you’re not a wild animal. 

Down below I’ll get into why animals can’t see orange, but suffice to say it’s basically mandatory to wear it when hunting. 

Emergency Supplies

You should always have an emergency kit with you when you’re going out. Even if you’re just taking a drive, it’s helpful to have a kit with you in the back of your truck or car. Consider this and orange safety clothing the only “must have” items you should carry. 

Here is a quick list of items to keep with you:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire-making supplies (magnesium striker, tinder, lighters, etc)
  • Water purification system (iodine helps with this too)
  • Flashlight (bring extra batteries)
  • Shelter
  • Food (MRE’s are good options for quick calories)

Paracord

It helps to have paracord with you because it’s incredibly versatile. You can build a makeshift shelter, hang food, drag deer, bundle wood, and much more. 

Try to get between 30-50 feet, and just put it in the back of your truck or car.  

Camouflage

To make a long story short, humans have the ability to see 3 forms of light: blue, yellow, red. This forms a trichromatic vision which is prevalent in humans and other primates. It’s a chimp thing, so to speak. 

On the flip side, deer and many four legged creatures can usually only see dichromatic ( two colors) which include: blue and yellow.

This means they cannot see orange (which is why hunters wear orange as a call to other hunters), purple, or red. 

The thing to pay attention to is deer have relatively bad eyesight. They can’t really see with crispness like humans can. For example, what we would consider normal at 20/20 vision is very sharp to a deer who sits at around 20/200 vision. Everything looks blurry to them. 

They primarily depend on their smell, and other signs, to determine if predators are around.

The point of all this is getting camo for deer hunting can be helpful, but only if you’re bow hunting. 

Birds on the other hand, that’s hunting you’ll need camo for. 

Birds have tetrachromatic vision (they can see four distinct colors), and rely very heavily on their vision as a way of understanding their surroundings. 

In fact, waterfowl hunters are often exempt from wearing orange when hunting for birds because it tips off the birds so quickly. 

Hopefully this gives you some insight into the scope of need for camouflage. 

Optics

If you can’t see it, you can’t kill it. This is why optics are so vital. 

There are four things you should consider having in your equipment when hunting:

  • Binoculars
  • Spotting Scopes
  • Riflescope
  • Rangefinder

Let’s start with the basics of binoculars.

Binoculars

This item will prove more valuable when hunting then any other item in your arsenal, outside your gun. 

Binoculars will be one of your most used items, and it’s important to pick your binoculars wisely. 

The first thing to pay attention to is the zoom, which depends on the density of your hunting grounds. 

If you’re going to primarily hunt within a densely wooded area, you can safely use an 8x zoom with a 42mm objective. That will be enough to get the job done, and they’re pretty light to put into your bag. 

If you’re hunting in lightly wooded or open areas, then you’ll want to consider a 10x zoom with a 42mm objective. 

If you’re hunting in very open areas, and need to know what you’re seeing at a distance, then it’s recommended to go to a 12x zoom with 50mm objective. Anything above this and it becomes too burdensome to carry in your bag. 

Something important to pay attention to also is the eye relief and interpupillary distance for the binoculars. Eye relief is the distance your eye can rest from the lens while seeing a complete image. Interpupillary distance is the distance between your two pupils. This will help with keeping the binoculars comfortable on your face. 

Spotting Scopes

If you’ve seen any sniper movie, you’ve probably watched a scene where a “spotter” provides insight for the sniper with a single optic scope. That was a spotting scope, and they’re very useful for hunting, particularly in wide open ranges. 

They operate nearly identical to binoculars.

Be sure to measure your eye relief and the necessary zooming power you’ll need when going out. 

Also, make sure to have Arnold do the spotting for you when you get the chance…

Riflescopes

If you’re hunting with a rifle, this will be an invaluable optics tool. Unfortunately it’s difficult for new hunters to understand rifle scopes because there are so many options, and it can get confusing fast. 

Do you get a fixed or variable zoom? Maybe one that measures trajectory and wind? What about red dot scopes? 

With all the complexity and choice, it’s best to remember a simple adage. Keep it simple! 

The most important thing to pay attention to is eye relief and zoom power. 

Rangefinders

This will be one of the last pieces of equipment or gear you’ll really need. A rangefinder is a combination of a laser and a monocular. 

What it will do is shoot out a laser that bounces off the target back into the sensor. This gives you a read of the distance between you and your game animal. 

If you’re bow hunting, a rangefinder is critical for understanding how much pull you'll need to increase the accuracy of your shot. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably pretty bad at guessing actual distance. If you’re bow hunting, this can mean the difference between a kill, and going home empty handed. 

Scent Control

I hate to break it to you, but you smell, and the animals all know. 

If you want to be a successful hunter, you need to have quality scent control. 

Where To Hunt

Now that you have some training under your belt, and got the gear you need, there’s only 1 thing left. 

Knowing where to hunt!

To be frank, this is often missed by most beginners. They’ll get all the equipment, and even some training and hunter education, but they’ll blank on where to actually hunt!

That’s the idea behind this entire section. To provide you with more clarity around what land you can go to for hunting. 

In it I’m going to walk you through the different areas for hunting. 

There are two primary locations for you to go hunting: 

  1. Public Land
  2. Private Land

Each has their own pros and cons with different rules and regulations you’ll need to follow. 

  1. Public Land

Public land is any land owned by the U.S. government (either federal, state, county, or local) which is open to all people. 

For the purpose of this part, we’re going to talk about the federal and state level of public land, because this is the biggest opportunity for hunters. 

Federal Land

You have so many options for federal land! In fact, the U.S. in general ranks high for the acreage of publicly accessible land for hunting. 

There are four major federal land types which include National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land. 

Here’s a quick map of the federal land in the U.S.: 

Federal Parks 

These are the most well known land owned and operated by the Department of the Interior. 

The bad news? 

Federal parks are generally NOT friendly to hunters. In fact, they are very strict with regulations for any type of public access. 

The goal with Federal parks is to keep the land as pristine as possible. Most of the national parks I’ve been to won’t even allow your dog to walk with you on hiking trails. 

Needless to say, you’ll want to move onto different land types. 

National Forests

There are about 188M acres of national forests in the U.S. which is operated by the National Forest Service. 

These lands are hunter friendly because of a bill called the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 which allowed for wildlife and fish purposes to be done on the land. 

National forests also include grasslands which fall into this category.

The idea is to allow people free access to the land, without bounds (except for key habitat regulations), which means you’re basically free to hunt here. 

As always be sure to double and triple check your area before you pitch camp and start hunting. 

Wildlife Refuges 

This is just another designation for public land. They’re normally “marsh” type environments, and are really great for bird hunting. 

There’s at least one wildlife refuge in every state, which means you’re probably pretty close to a refuge yourself! 

They're managed by the Department of the Interior, specifically the National Wildlife Service. 

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land

This is primarily for the western side of the country. For the most part, BLM doesn’t operate in the central or eastern side of the U.S.

These lands are multi-use and offer light regulations. They fall under the same Multi-Use Act of 1960 which the National Parks, National Forests and Wildlife Refugees fall under. 

You can drive off road, boondock in the middle of nowhere, and go hunting all on the same BLM land without any consequences (obviously you need to be following all the federal regulations and laws). 

  1. State Land

The second option for public land is state owned land, which would be considered state parks. These are designated areas owned by the state, and each is going to follow their local state laws regarding hunting and trapping. 

It’s difficult to present a central report on state land because each is so different. 

Here’s what you can expect though…

There is a WIDE spectrum of friendliness to hunters. 

For example, I live in Texas which is relatively friendly to hunters for their state parks. Although I have a friend who lives in California, and it’s completely banned to hunt in their state parks. 

For this, you’ll need to do a little more research into which state park you want to visit and if they allow for hunting. 

Private Land

This is where I got started hunting! 

I was lucky enough to have relatives who live in Wisconsin and who own a couple hundred acres of hunting land with their farm. 

To be frank, this is the best form of hunting, but only if you can get access to the land. 

Why? 

Because typically with large land owners, they themselves like to hunt and they use their land for hunting. They usually don’t want anyone coming onto their land without their prior approval, because it takes away from their opportunity to catch the animals. 

The best way to get access is to just ask for permission by the land owner. Usually they’ll give you a direct answer right away. 

If they give you a no, offer to do some work for them or even pay them for access to the land. Typically the land owner want’s value in exchange for you going on their property. 

You could also go to a private ranch and hunt animals who have been raised their whole lives to be hunted, but I’ve found those to be not true to the nature of hunting itself. It takes away from the thrill of the chase. 

Scout Your Hunting Area

You now know where you can legally hunt. Both public and private (if you have permission!) lands. 

That’s the easy part. 

The next step is learning how to scout an area to ensure it will be a productive hunt. This is the hard part! 

This is where most of your planning and prep work will be spent before you’re even out in the wild. 

There are a lot of techniques to scout your area. The best way I’ve ever heard scouting for your hunting grounds is through a process of elimination. Your goal is to find, and eliminate, the areas where you think it will be most unlikely for you to be successful. 

With that in mind, I highly recommend you use the internet as your first step in checking out places to hunt, once you do, you can then venture into trail cameras, backpacking, or other options for getting more information. 

Here are some of the best tools you can use when scouting your hunting area.

Online Maps

The first tool you need to be using is online maps. In particular, Google maps. The goal is to find an area that looks appealing and might have game in it, but it’s also on public land. Otherwise you’re going to knock on a couple doors to try and get access to the private land.

To do this you can use your county’s GIS map which allows you to perform property lookup to search. 

Another option is to use Caltopo which is a free map tool for finding hunting grounds. It allows you to overlay land boundaries overtop topographic maps of an area. 

For example, let’s say you want to go hunting in Big Bend, Texas. You would start by going on Google to look at all the different areas within the State Park. Then you would pull up that area on Caltopo and apply a boundary overlay. This gives you the exact points you can, and cannot, hunt. 

As you find good locations for high ground, roads, springs or rivers within Caltopo, you’ll want to record the geo-coordinates so you can view it in Google Maps. 

Now, pull up Google Maps of those coordinates, and now you’ll have complete satellite imagery of the area. 

It’s like having a drone, but without buying a drone…

Trail Cameras

Once you have an area you feel is worth pursuing, you may consider putting up trail cameras to understand if animals move often within the brush. 

These can help tremendously when scouting new places you’re looking to hunt because they can operate while humans are away. They’ll be taking pictures at regular intervals. 

What you can do is put up between 10-20 different cameras within the area in the beginning of summer, then check on them when hunting season begins. If you see a mature buck, or multiple, then you know it’s a good spot to hunt. 

If not, then you’ll get new information to put to use for the following season!

Forums

Another helpful tool is checking out forums. 

Not only for help with scouting new territories, but also to get the hunters experiences and stories. Often those can prove invaluable when you’re in the wilderness! 

Here are a couple good forums you can look into: 

  • Deer Hunter Forum
  • Hunting Net
  • Hunting Beast
  • Coues Whitetail

Just be warned…

You’re probably not going to find a “perfect” spot on these forums. Hunters have a tendency to keep their treasured locations secret. They don’t want too much company. 

How To Hunt Deer

You have the gun, the education, the gear, and now you know where to hunt. 

Welcome to the show! 

Now it’s time to actually go after some deer. 

Here’s the complete breakdown of how to hunt for deer. 

Know When To Hunt Deer

A lot of beginning hunters seem to think of hunting as a fall or even winter activity. They imagine waking up to the cold of night and getting dressed in multiple layers to stay warm while pitched on a stand.

The truth is, hunting happens from summer to late fall, with many different reasons and tactics behind the hunt, particularly for deer.

There are four major times you need to pay attention to for hunting deer. 

Early Season

There’s a good reason for early season hunting (and remember, if you’re hunting with a rifle this doesn’t apply to you): 

  • For nearly a full year the deer have felt no pressure by hunters. They’re vulnerable and lazy during the beginning of the season. At this point in time, you have the highest odds of finding a high quality buck.
  • Deer will only be worried about food in the beginning of the season. In fact, as the transition from summer to fall happens, the food deer prefer becomes more plentiful. This makes for a more predictable hunt.
  • Typically male deer (bucks) gather in the late summer. You’ll find 2 big bucks surrounded by a couple other smaller bucks during this time. 

If you’re looking for an easy strategy for finding big bucks, then try early in the season. 

This all changes as fall comes though. Which means the pre-rut season…

Pre Rut

When fall hits, bucks start breaking out on their own and establishing territories for themselves. This means they mark their territories with scrapes and rubs. They start fighting other bucks, and start trying to attract does. 

It’s only a matter of days before the first does start accepting bucks advances, and then chaos ensues later on. 

Not only is the deer behavior changing, but the food is equally changing too for the deer. The new fall chill is killing off green fields they used to eat, which means food is getting more scarce for the deer. 

It can be a brutal time to go hunting during the pre-rut, but here are a couple reasons why you might consider it:

  • The weather is pretty nice. Fall is here, and you’re not soaking in 85 degree heat all day swatting at mosquitoes. 
  • Corn fields and other food sources become more attractive by the day, even if the bucks know it’s dangerous. 
  • Big signs are starting to appear for buck signals. Rubs, scrapes, and other markings will help you find a routine. 

The Rut

This is where the action is!

The rut is when bucks go wild for the does. They are simply lovestruck and need to get a fix. 

They will run wild chasing (white) tail, and now is the best time for rifle hunters to get into the action, because they bucks aren’t as cautious as they usually are. 

The rut normally happens from mid to late October, through mid November.

At some point in mid-November, the wild deer go into a sort of “lockdown” mode where they go into very thick brush and breed. This typically happens for 48 hours and it’s very rare to see a buck during this time. 

Post-Rut

Usually in the first week of December, the rut is officially over. Snow is starting to fall and it’s getting cold, and won’t get back to warmer temperatures until spring. 

This is probably the hardest time to hunt deer because they’ve just experienced massive pressure from hunters. The deer will be very unlikely to move in the daylight anymore. 

Your best bet it so be near high quality food sources for the deer. 

Deer Calling Strategies

Not all deer hunting is sitting all day in a stand. That would be considered passive hunting, and while it has its place, it can take a long time for you to see any results. 

That’s why many hunters will opt for more aggressive strategies like deer calling and decoying. 

Deers are not only very sensitive to smell, but actually quite vocal too. They will often let their curiosity get the best of them when they hear a natural sound. 

Here are some calls you need to know…

Snort

This is a common buck call, but it’s generally only made during the rut. This is a call a buck will make when battling for dominance over territory or other does. 

During the rut, you can use this as a way to entice a buck to a fight. This will get him closer to your perch so you can get a good shot off. 

Be warned though, you should only use it sparingly and during the right season. 

Grunt

This is probably the most effective call. It can be used regardless of the season. There are actually three separate kinds of grunts: 

  • Tending Grunt - a sound the bucks make when chasing a hot doe and can be used to call a buck to your location.
  • Contact Grunt - This is useful for just causing a buck to stop. They make this sound when passing another deer, and it’s used to announce presence. Usually bucks will stop and look in the direction if they hear it.
  • Trailing Grunt - this is another sound used by bucks when chasing a doe. 

Rattling Antlers

This is a tried and true method of calling deer. Especially when the rut is happening. 

As the season goes deeper into November, you can expect bucks to start looking for a fight to get a prize doe. By rattling antlers, you have a high chance of attracting attention to your area. 

Where To Shoot A Deer

Shot placement is the difference between getting food for the winter, and going home empty handed. 

It’s fairly simple, so here’s the breakdown. 

You want to put the bullet behind the shoulder of a deer so you increase your chances of hitting a lung or the heart. If you place a shot within those two organs, you will have made a lethal shot. 

Here’s a good image to help you visualize it better: 

Ideally you want to be perpendicular to the buck when shooting it to give you the best shot possible. If you’re rifle hunting you might be able to get away with a quarter angle, but it’s not recommended especially for beginners. 

Do your best to hit up in the heart and lungs so you avoid puncturing the intestines. This can cause the meat to go back if you do. 

Make a good shot, and I promise the blood trial will be easy to find. 

How To Process Wild Game

You’ve got your first kill! 

Excellent, welcome to the family. 

Now it’s time for the fun part. Processing the meat. 

Before we embark on this section, I need to point out that I am by no means an expert on this subject. I’m still very much a novice when it comes to processing and butchering. 

To be frank, for most of the heavy lifting dealing with butchering, I like to have a professional do it due to my inability, but be warned that it can get expensive.

If you’re a beginner, trust me when I say I completely understand your hesitation or confusion. 

This topic is rather complex and probably deserves it’s own article. I’m going to give you the high level information with a focus on giving you enough to know what you’re talking about. 

So with that said, let’s start with the basics. 

What does process even mean?

Processing is a term which describes the act of breaking down a whole animal into consumable pieces. It’s meant to encapsulate the entire “process” from being hunted, to ending up on your dinner plate. 

It goes from gutting the animal, skinning it, removing the sex organs, quartering, gathering the organs, and removing the meat from the bones.

 What Tools Do You Need

You will need tools in order to properly process your new kill. They’re not expensive, and it’s highly recommended you bring them on every hunt. 

Here’s the tools you’ll need: 

  • Knife - a fairly small knife is all that’s necessary to get the job done. 
  • Bone Saw - helps with cutting through bone.
  • Game Bag - a breathable sack you can place meat in which prevents flies from entering
  • Gloves - animals carry infections which can transmit to you, where gloves for protection.
  • Parachute Cord - used for hanging the animal.
  • Coolers - really helpful to keep your meat cold if you’re in a warmer climate
  • Citric Acid - this really helps prevent bacteria and insects, you don’t need it but it helps.

Principles For Processing Animals

There are only a couple key principles you need to follow when processing any wild animal. 

  1. Get The Meat Cold Fast

Warm meat breeds bacteria, insects, and other bad juju for your new kill. Get your meat cold as soon as possible, with good air circulation, to prevent this from happening. 

This will also make the meat taste good when you’re cooking it.

  1. Keep Your Meat Dry And Clean

Dry meat is just as important as cold meat. 

You’ll mainly run into insects, dirt, the animal’s hair, and intestine fluids. Dirt and hair are not such a big deal, although they can make the meat taste a little funky, but insects and intestine fluids will ruin meat fast. 

When it comes to gutting your deer, you must pay special attention to NOT puncturing the gut. Not only does it ruin the meat, but it smells awful. 

Here’s a good video about field dressing your deer: 

Here’s another great video to help you with understanding deer processing:

I promise you, if you watch those videos, you’ll have at least 90% of the info you need to properly field dress and process your first kill. 

IMPORTANT: for the most part, four legged animal processing is the same across the different animals. From deer, to elk, to rabbits, to pigs. You will need to field dress it, then process the meat. 

Conclusion: The Ultimate Guide To Hunting For Beginners

Hopefully you’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from this article. 

If you’ve read through this article, and watched the videos, I promise you you’re already 80% better than most of your peers, just from the reading.

If you’re a beginner, it can be tough navigating this amazing and chaotic world of hunting. I promise if you stay the course, you’ll find a friendly and helpful community of like minded people all trying to increase their connection with nature. 

Remember, hunting is not immoral or unethical, but only if you treat the animals with respect trying to minimize suffering as much as possible. 

Pull the trigger, fill your tag, and enjoy a nice steak on the grill for me.

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment below!