In honor of National Hunting and Fishing Day, we’ve put together a list of deer hunting tips for beginners. There’s no better time than the present to get started as a hunter. Deer hunts are available in almost every state, permits are not that expensive and there are plenty of clubs and experienced hunters willing to help someone learn more about this lifestyle. Here’s our advice though for anyone looking to take their first deer hunt this year.
Unlike fishing trips where catch and release is often the best way to preserve the ecosystem, you can't just release a buck that you shot. That makes it even more important to not waste anything when hunting. Once you shoot a deer, elk, sheep, boar, duck, pheasant etc. it is your responsibility to honor the animal from your first day hunting till the last. This means not only butchering it properly but preserving the meat so it doesn’t spoil and can easily be shared with friends and neighbors too. Learning how to hunt deer is only the beginning!
Attention New Hunters: Before You Even Consider Going on Your First Deer Hunt …
Any new hunter who is even considering going out on their first deer hunt should first practice shooting, invest in a firearms safety course (or bow safety course), and make sure that they have studied shot placement with your specific weapon of choice. This is the first step towards making sure your first deer hunting experience is a successful one.
For deer and elk, you’ll be shooting with a rifle or bow and your shot placement will be the chest with the objective of piercing the heart and lungs.
State Websites to Help New Hunters Learn to Hunt Deer
- Montana Hunting Apprentice Program (designed to pair adults with youths interested in hunting)
- Wisconsin Learn to Hunt
- Minnesota Learn to Hunt
- Illinois Learn to Hunt
- Massachusetts Learn to Hunt
- Colorado Learn to Hunt
- South Dakota Harvest SD
- Pennsylvania - Go Hunt PA
- Ohio Deer Hunting Tips For Beginners
- Iowa Learn to Hunt
Most state DNRs and Fish, Game, and Wildlife services welcome responsible new hunters. If you aren't sure where to start hunting, your local office - or the one in a state that you are planning to visit - is an ideal place to start. They can provide you with all the required information about hunting regulations, tips for new hunters in the territory, and other advice to ensure your first hunting trips are as enjoyable and successful as possible.
Hunting Education Online Classes For New Hunters
Are also great resources that you can use to improve your safety and learn skills that will help make sure your first hunting experience is one that you will remember fondly for years to come.
Know Your Local Deer Hunting Laws, Get a Hunting License, and Certifications
There are lots of laws and regulations that you must know to hunt legally. These range from making sure you have the correct hunting license, proper certifications, and always understanding local laws regarding property rights, noise restrictions, and dates / times when hunting is permitted.
How To Go Hunting The First Time
The first time you go hunting may be pretty intimidating. There are a lot of rules that you might not know as well as the adrenaline of knowing that you are following in the footsteps of millions of other men who have set out into the wilderness to find food for their family. Luckily though, you aren't alone and there are groups to help new hunters have a great first time hunting experience.
Find a Friend With Deer Hunting Experience To Go With You
Most people learn about hunting as a young man by tagging along with his father, uncle, or other older man in his family. However, if that’s not how you got started – don’t worry. There are hunting clubs, online forums and other ways to connect with people. Having someone join you isn’t just about teaching you the skills but sharing the experience of being men exploring the wilderness and tracking down your prey.
Partner With a Group Specializing in Getting New Hunters Out In the Field Successfully
There are many options here from ranches that welcome first time deer hunters to social groups on meetup. You'll also find that stores like L.L. Bean and Cabela's also have great staff that will be able to help recommend local groups that welcome new hunters.
Hunting Gear For Beginners
The full list of gear that new hunters will need is too long to be included here. However, the follow are some of the top pieces of equipment that you must have for your first time hunting.
- Hunting Licence, Deer Tags, and Personal Identification
- Weapon, Extra Ammunition, Waterproof Ammo Case
- Knife and Knife Sharpener
- Two-way Radios and Smartphone
- Snacks, Lunch, and Extra Water
- Hunting Clothing
- Scent Attractant, Decoys, and Game Calls
- Vest, tracking collar, and other gear for your hunting dog
One of the most important deer hunting tips for beginners is to focus on what you need and balance it with what you don't actually need. Your pack is going to be too heavy to carry if you bring everything you think you might need. On the other hand, you don't want to be sitting out in the woods waiting for your first deer to walk by and realize you forgot something important!
Hunting Requires Lots of Patience
There are some game that will come to you easily and you’ll go home with a collection of kills. Hunting deer though is different. You’ll need lots of patience to be successful. Once you’ve found your spot, even with a decoy to lure a deer near you it could take hours for the buck you seek to walk by giving you the perfect shot.
Stay put in that spot, don’t move, relax, and enjoy being outside rather than raking leaves or mowing the lawn!
Eliminate Your Human Odor
Deer have a very good sense of smell and you must do what you can to avoid leaving a scent. This starts with making sure the shower well in the morning but after hiking through the woods, chances are you are perspiring and that odor with stay with you. To hep with that, you should invest in camouflage clothing that is lined with activated charcoal and carrying odor eliminator with you.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure to position yourself downwind of the path where you expect the deer to come from. While you can’t see the odor, it carries through the wind like water down a stream. One whiff of you might be all a deer needs to be the difference between the subject of a happy deer hunting story and simply, “the one that got away”.
Decide On What Style of Deer Hunting Stand Works Best For You
Some hunters prefer the elevation of a tree stand for deer hunting, while others prefer staying on the ground since it is more comfortable and offers better shelter. As a new hunter, it is ok for you to experiment and ask buddies for suggestions. You should ultimately try both styles to determine which type of stand is best for you.
Get Offline Maps To Help You Navigate
There are many different mobile apps to help you navigate in the woods. Some offer generalize topographical maps while others are specially designed for hunters. As a new hunter I encourage you to download a few different ones before you go out and decide which works best for you.
Best Android Apps For Deer Hunting
iSolunar Hunting and Fishing Times – provides a wealth of data to help you be a better hunter, including feeding patterns, sunrise/sunset times, weather forecasts, etc.
onX Hunt – one of the most respected apps to monitor property lines as well as other features to help the serious deer hunter.
SAS Survival Guide – while we all hope never to need emergency survival advice, this app is going to be your best friend if the worse happens.
Google Maps – though not specifically designed for hunting, nor is it the best for topographical info, you should always download your hunting area for offline use before heading out.
Weather Underground – I always want to know what the weather is going to be, including radar maps and scientific discussions. This is the weather app on my phone and it should be on yours too.
AllTrails – this is my favorite app for hiking and off-roading since it has a fantastic collection of different types of maps including topographical data, path tracking to record your activities etc. Though not specifically for hunting, this is one of the best apps you can have with you when out in the woods.
Make sure to download the maps before you leave though! You don’t want to be stuck in the woods and not know the proper path home.
Learn About Field Dressing Before You Leave on Your First Hunt
For new hunters, this can be one of the most stressful moments. You’ve just shot that beautiful buck and now you have a dead deer in front of you. What do you do with it now?
For experienced hunters, this isn’t a difficult process but it can be intimidating if this is your first deer hunt. The video above covers most of what you will need to know but again, it’s always good to have someone experienced with you to help out!
Scout The Perfect Spot For Your First Hunt
You should always scout your spot before hunting season begins. As a new hunter, this will help you get familiarized with the terrain as well as signs of where deer are most active.
Signs To Help You Track Deer On The Day of Your First Deer Hunt
As part of your scouting expedition, you likely found a couple potential spots that had evidence that deer were active there. This could be bedding areas with dense foliage and food or water sources, travel corridors, and choke points. Wherever you choose to set up your stand, use these sorts of locations to improve the likelihood of a deer walking into range of your rifle so you can get a clean shot.