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So you want to start hunting?


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So you want to get into deer hunting?

I have noticed on this board every year, several of us who would like to start hunting or even get back into it.  I thought I would compile a few things together to help.  Below is a getting started guide and to keep it from getting too boring, I have included a few stories that have occurred over the past 19 years of my hunting career.  I took me several hours to try and make this a good piece so I hope you learn something and it provides value for you!  As a new hunter, the details and tips can be overwhelming at first.  For me personally, with anything, I tend to suffer from analysis paralysis.  Don't feel like you have to get it all figured out before you go on your first hunt.  What's important is to be Legal, Safe and to just get out there and enjoy creation.  


You need to be legal before you hunt:

You need to take a Hunters Safety Course.  Not only is this required by law but even those knowledgable will learn things in this class that you would not have previously known.  These are things that will keep you and others safe and make for a more enjoyable hunting experience.  You will learn things like, how to cross a fence, and different safety precautions with gun/bow/black powder, and especially treestand safety. 


  You need a hunting license.  You will need a Big Game License and to purchase the Gun license.  There are certain exceptions to this such as if you are hunting on direct family land or a caretaker of land.  You will also need the 094 Antlerless Deer permit.  See TWRA website for more details. 


For deer hunting, you need blaze orange during gun season.  TN law requires the use of 500 inches of blaze orange.  A vest and a hat satisfy these requirements.  

You need to have written permission from the landowner allowing you to hunt said property.  
 Lastly, you need to have a center fire rifle with expandable bullet (no FMJ).  Game wardens do not have a sense of humor. So be legal and you will be able to enjoy your hunt. 


Moral and Ethical Responsibility: 
 Know the limits of you and your rifle.  Practice with your rifle and find out what your limit is.  If your rifle has a scope, make sure it's sighted in and properly mounted. There are a plethora of YouTube videos detailing proper scope mounting.  Even if someone gives you a rifle and says the scope is true, don't take their word for it, you find out for yourself.  You are going to take this animal's life so when you decide to pull the trigger, you do it in the most ethical and humane way possible.  The pain you feel after you have wounded an animal is far greater than the excitement of making a clean kill.  If there is even a single doubt, don't pull the trigger. 

Most of the shots we take here in Tennessee tend to be around 100 yards and in due to our topography and amount of woods we have.  Currently there is a trend for hunting at long range and to do so requires a specific skillset.  If you are just starting to hunt, I'd highly recommend staying away from longer shots (250+ yards) until you figure out your ethical range.  Hitting steel at long range is different than trying to hunt an animal.  

Sighting in your scope: There are a couple different ideas here.  A lot of people will sight in at 100 yards and if you are hunting typical TN land that will be plenty sufficient.  However, another idea is to sight your rifle in at "Maximum Point Blank Range".  Google that term and you can find a calculator to help you figure this out.  The idea behind this is you can be in the kill zone of a deer from 0 yards out to the Maximum Point Blank Range without having to dial or hold over.  This maximum range will be different depending on bullet choice, caliber, and velocity but I'd say typically it's about 250-300 yards. 

 Make sure you have a plan to have the deer processed so the meat won't go to waste either.  If you don't like deer, it's so easy to find someone who wants it. I have done this several times and it is always appreciated by everyone I have come across. Tennessee has a program called Hunters for the Hungry which you can donate your deer to.  Talk to your processor about this. More on field dressing later.   

 Also, in effort to treat animals with respect and dignity I want to share this story.  I was hunting as a kid.  At this point in my life, I actually started to not shoot everything I saw and was holding out for a big buck.  It was at the end of my hunt when I heard some footsteps.  I looked up and saw a small doe.  I really enjoyed watching her get closer to me and I didn't even raise my gun because I was not after a doe.  As she came close, I realized she was only using 3 of her legs.  She turned broadside to me and I saw where a hunter had previously shot her in the shoulder.  It was broken, rotten, her leg was dangling underneath her, there were maggots already moving around in the torn up meat/flesh.  I immediately raised up my gun and put her down.  I was so thankful for that little doe.  I was so honored and proud to be the one that helped out her quality of life.  It really hurts me inside to think of how nature would have taken care of that deer if I hadn't of.  So always, always, always, make good ethical shots. 


How to stay warm:


It is important to stay warm while hunting.  Keep in mind, opening day of gun season is in November and runs through the first week in January or so.  Freezing and shaking in the deer stand is not much fun, and you may not look forward to hunting the next time!  
 When you are sitting still in the deer
stand, it’s not movement that will be generating heat, it’s your metabolism.  This is why some people tend to be warmer/colder under the same conditions. A common misconception people tend to think is that clothing produces heat, but it doesn’t.  It’s your body that produces heat, and the best clothing is able to retain the heat your body produces.  Never ever wear cotton.  That goes from head to toe!  Cotton does not transfer moister, it absorbs it.  This will make you wet and cold as well as lead to chaffing and blisters.


The best way to stay warm is with layering.  This is started by a base layer, which is form fitting and next to the skin.  The base layer is literally THE most important part of your layering system and the reason is this...moisture transportation.  You will get hot walking to your stand, when you get hot you sweat, when you sweat you are wet, and when you are wet and its cold, you freeze. I use Under Amour Cold Gear for my base layer and it does great at moister transportation but honestly, I think there are other base layers out there that can insulate better.  When getting a base layer, you can get anything thin like silk, or thick like some expedition weight stuff.  The insulation you choose is a personal thing.

The next layer you need is an insulating layer.  A good insulating layer will have a lot of "loft".  The more loft, the more heat retention.  I wear a pair of thick fleece pants and a fleece jacket.  

The last layer is your camo.  Your camo may have insulation built in it already so if its warmer, you wont need the fleece pants, if its cooler, you can combine your middle layer along with your insulated camo for added loft and warmth.  It’s a good idea to have waterproof/resistant camo for obvious reasons.  Its worth the extra cost but you don’t need GoreTex ($$$).  Also, make sure when you get camo you get camo that is quiet!  Compare a deer jacket with a duck jacket and you will know what I am talking about.  This is especially critical when bow hunting. The sound of clothing rubbing together...as subtle as it may be to us, is not a natural woods sound and will spook deer.  You will also come across clothing that controls your scent, they do this with a built in layer of carbon and some of the new stuff now utilizes some sort of antimicrobial chemical. They work and they are nice but also very expensive and in my opinion/budget, not necessary.

Don’t get too confused about camo pattern.  They are all VERY advanced and good.  The idea is to match the camo as closely as you can with your surroundings but don’t stress out about it.  After all, you're wearing blaze orange right?  Where camo patter comes into play is really in bow/muzzleloader season and in other types of hunting, especially turkey hunting.  Like, it wouldn’t really be good to wear turkey camo (with lots of green) in the dead of winter and vis versa.


Deer see blacks, whites, grays and recent research has come out saying that they can see certain blues as well.  So that’s why you can wear blaze orange while hunting without them being spooked.


Socks: The layering system applies here too.  Thin base layer and a thick pair of wool socks.  I wear SmartWool and will not consider any other brand!  Reason being....I HATE cold feet.  There are substitutes to SmartWool socks and they work great, but I am picky and have personally chosen that brand as my hunting sock. They do not stretch or itch, they wick moisture very well and last forever.  But you will also pay $25 for 1 pair.  Again, other socks are great and would accomplish the same thing for much less money but I personally choose SmartWool. HotHands also make footbed warmers and toe warmers.  Those things can be worth their weight in gold!  I’d snag a couple to keep in your hunting back just in case.

Gloves:  You can get thick gloves but thick gloves make it very hard to operate your gun with. For example, its impossible to be able to tell exactly when your trigger is about to break/fire.  If you are going to be shooting a lot (duck hunting), you would likely just keep your shooting hand glove off and keep it warm in your jacket pocket until you are ready to shoot. Make sure whatever gloves you purchase are waterproof. I have a pair of gloves for when its warm and a pair for when its super cold but pretty much every time I shoot, I take the glove off.  They make gloves with reduced insulation in the trigger fingers and they work nicely.  Also, I take hand warmers with me and stick them in my gloves and that works great for me.  I will talk more about those in a second. 


Boots:  In my opinion, the best all-around boots to buy are rubber insulated boots.  They are incredibly durable, completely waterproof, inexpensive, they come insulated and the best part is that they cover your scent!  Just tuck your pants down into them and hike on to your stand.  The downside is that they don’t breath (which is why it prevents your scent from leaking out of the boot) and they can be uncomfortable walking long distances. The best most popular hunting
boot (rubber and neoprene which does transfer your scent) are Muck Boots.  They are light, super warm and comfortable but also very expensive. Scent control is so incredibly important and will be discussed later.  I wear a pair of Red Head 800gr Thinsulate rubber boots from bass pro.  I think they are like $60-80.

  These are those little packets that once opened, produce a lot of heat.  Go ahead and buy several.  Those things can be an absolute life saver and improve the quality and quantity of time in your deer stand.  My dad told me a story about a time he was hunting where he got so cold, it took all his strength and about 30 minutes to fish his keys out of his pocket, unlock the door and get the car started.  It really scared him how frozen his hands were.  So not only are these HotHands a luxury, they can also save your life.


Scent Control:

  So this is one of the more important topics here.  Deer are prey in the woods.  God has given them their number one defense to predators and that is their nose.  If you observe a deer in the wild and they keep lifting their head up pointing their nose in the air, they have caught wind of something they don’t like.  Now, as a new hunter and seeking advice from others, you will hear stories of people pissing out of their deerstands, smoking or dipping while hunting, wearing the same clothes as the day before and somehow, they got a deer within 20 yards and they get the kill.  They are telling you this, trying to convince you that their anecdotal evidence is better than actual research.  Let me tell you how wrong they are.  Do they see a deer every time they go out?  No, they don’t.  They may blame it on the location, or the food not being right for the deer just yet or this that and the other.   Here is my main point, and it’s a good one, you will never know the amount of deer you don’t see by practicing poor scent control.  I guarantee as sure as you are reading this and the sun rising tomorrow, if you practice poor scent control, you will miss deer. 


Where should you start when controlling your scent?  At the bare minimum, you need to have purchased scent-neutralizing spray.  There are several different brands out there.  I use Scent-a-way because I was able to find a combo pack with a lot of stuff in it.  Dead Down Wind is probably the best out there but they should all be sufficient.  Now, if you want to take scent control to another level then you should have scent free soap, scent free deodorant, scent free laundry detergent and the scent free spray.  There are other items out there such as toothpaste, gum, lotion, gold bond type powder and who knows what else so you can get crazy with it if you want but even I don’t go that crazy. You are going to be fighting a losing battle with your scent.  The scent free stuff helps keep our scent at bay for a period of time but eventually, we will pick up and release other odors.    

Now that you have all your scent free stuff, how do you stay scent free?  You might think this scenario would keep you scent free: Wash your clothes the night before in the scent free stuff, take a scent free shower the morning of, put on your hunting clothes, get in your car and drive to your location.  There are a few problems with that scenario though.  After you washed your clothes, where did you put them?  Did you put them in the laundry basket where there have been clothes contaminated with sweet smelling regular detergent? Was this basket in the kitchen where food smells could have been absorbed?  Did you lay them out on the sofa where you can/dog sleeps? What about when you got out of the shower?  How did you dry off?  Did you use a towel you washed in Gain detergent?  What about when you put your clothes on and got into your car?  Was your exhaust running while you were packing up? Have you eaten or smoked in your car before where they would be lingering smells? Did you have to fill up with gas before you left? 


If you are still with me, my point is why go to all the trouble to be scent free if you leave out important details that could make a difference in the field.    So really walk through what you will do to remain scent free.  It gets easier, I promise! 


My routine is I wash and dry my clothes scent free, store in plastic scent free bag, take a shower the morning of with scent free stuff, dry off with a scent free towel I washed with my camo, put on my scent free travel clothes that I also washed, then when I get to my hunting location, I change into my scent free hunting clothes. 


Some other info:  arrive in plenty of time to walk to your stand slowly.  Walking too fast will cause you to sweat which will cause you to stink.  You never want to walk to your stand with the wind at your back.  If its in your face, or at your side, depending on how you are walking to your stand and where you will be hunting you should be good.  So you never want to hunt with the wind in your face.  Even if you have done all the right things, the deer can still pick up on you. 


Cover Scents:

 I like cover scents.  So not only have you made every effort you can to neutralize your scent, you can also cover up your scent.  Make sure you choose natural scents to your area.  If you have no pine trees at your place, then don’t use pine scent.  If you have no apple trees at your place, then don’t use apple scent.  You also don’t want to use predator urine for obvious reasons.  I usually have some earth scented wafers that I attach to my pack and hat.  Then I spray the bottom of my boots with doe pee.  I have seen many deer walk across the same path I walked without picking my scent up.   This system works great! 


Hunt the wind:

  Make sure before you set up a stand, take a look at the wind and figure out which winds would allow that stand to be huntable.  You do not want the wind to be blowing your scent to the deer so always have the wind in your face or to your side depending on where you setup is.  To throw in another layer of confusion for you, the wind is also important when walking to your stand.  You don’t want your scent blowing into a bedding area where you will be hunting just on the edge of.  The deer will pattern you and will stay away.

Opening day of deer season last year had me pretty upset.  I had my spot picked out.  We had patterned the deer knowing that they will come out of this certain spot about 40 yards north of where my stand was but the morning of the hunt the wind was from the south, blowing my scent where the deer were going to come out of.  So I went to option 2 and hunted where the wind was in my favor.  By choosing not to hunt out of my first option, I kept my scent away from that area and therefore would not educate the deer that I am trying to hunt there.  


Where should I hunt?
  There are two types of property you can hunt legally, a public Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Private Property.  Make sure you do plenty of research or make a phone call prior to hunting in a WMA.  There are often restrictions as to where you can hunt and what you can use to hunt.  Some WMA’s are bow hunting only.  WMA’s can be pretty frustrating as well because you will likely run across people and people will run across you.  To be successful hunting a WMA, you need to go where other people don’t.  You need to find the nastiest woods/shrubs/crap you can find and hunt just on the edge of it. 

Private property is nice because you likely won’t run into anyone else. There also won’t likely be a whole lot of hunting pressure so you will see more deer.  Private property can be family land, land of a friend or even land that you lease.  The downside to private property is that it can really get expensive.

Don’t be afraid to get creative when trying to find property.  You may be surprised if you offer to help out around the land for a weekend, or offer a portion of your meat you harvest to a land owner and how that might help you gain access.  Always let them know that you are an ethical hunter and will take care of the property. 

Last year, I had a friend that used to hunt a lot but since moving up to Memphis he hasn’t had any access.  Anyways, he offered to help out at my land putting up deer stands and in turn, I let him harvest a doe.  So, it works! 


What should I hunt out of? 



There is a direct relationship between stand comfort and
seeing/shooting deer!

I prefer to hunt out of deer stands for 3 major reasons: they help keep your scent high and away from the deer’s nose, they give you a great view and until deer learn (from being shot at or scent) to look up, they
won’t likely spot you. Below are the type of stands and their advantages/disadvantages:


1. Climber Tree Stands Climber stands are useful because you don’t have to haul in other equipment such as climbing sticks or ladders. Also, you are not limited to a height you can hunt. As long as the tree is straight and clear of branches you can climb as high as you need to…. And as long as you are being safe! On the other hand, these stands can be loud, cumbersome and not allow adequate cover by branches or limbs.
 The biggest advantage of these type of stands is their mobility. 


 2. Hang-On Tree Stands Hang-on, also referred to as lock-on, stands should be set up ahead of time and they provide you a quiet and quick set up on the morning of a hunt. On the downside, moving your stand takes more work than a climber stand, and they take some work to install them on the tree.


3. Ladder Stands Most ladder stands weigh from 50 - 150 pounds or
more. This can be quite heavy when you add in the weight of your other
gear. If you don’t plan to move your stand very often, or you don’t
need to carry it very far, this stand is a good option with the safety
and convenience of an attached ladder. Be sure to follow installation instructions precisely for safety purposes. I like ladder stands because they are very safe and sturdy.  Also, they come in both 1 and
 2 man versions which really help make hunting more fun with 2 people up in them. 


4. Box Hunting Stands: Box stands are the Cadillac of deer stands.  They are often made out of plastic or fiberglass and provide shelter and warmth.  One of the biggest downsides of a
 box stand is that you can’t move it from one spot to another. A
 big advantage though with these is they are inclosed and will help
 keep you warm!  You can even put a propane heater in there and be 



5. Freestanding / Tower Stands  These types 
of elevated stands are best for areas with few trees to support your
 stand. Some freestanding structures are permanent. Others are portable. Unfortunately, most portable tower stands are a pain to move
because of their bulk and weight.


6. Ground Blinds: The advantage....free!  They make pop up style camo
ground blinds (tents) or you can build your own using the things that are around you such as branches and grasses.  Again, the downside to
these is a limited view and your scent is right at deer level.

The most important point to think about in choosing a deer stand is to research which stand provides a safe and effective hunting strategy for your hunting area. A deer stand can be the critical element to harvesting that buck of a lifetime.


Where do I set up to hunt?

  If that isn’t the million-dollar question then I don’t know what is!  This is where you can easily get caught up in some complicated deer hunting theories but don’t worry; I will break this down for you.  Three main things motivate deer: Food, Water and Shelter (bedding).  The best of these to set up on is food!  Food may be a fruit tree dropping fruit like Persimmons, or an Oak tree dropping acorns (white oak acorns are much preferred by deer than red oaks.  Red oaks have more acidity in the acorns and they taste bitter to the deer).  Food may also be man-made, such as a food plot or agricultural plot.  Deer are edge animals.  They like to walk along the edge of anything such as a field, a tree line, a fence, row of pines up against hardwoods, anything like that.  There are also natural and man made funnels that the deer will travel down.  Those are the best spots to hunt. 


How long should I hunt? 

 As much as possible!!  Try to be in your stand 30-45 minutes prior to shooting time when it is still pitch black dark and stay as long as you can stand it.  Let me tell you this.  Deer pattern hunters.  They hear the 4 wheelers crank up early, then they hear them again around 9 or 10 o’clock.  Then they hear them again around 3 o’clock and then again just after dark.  Can you take a guess as to when you think deer are most active (in legal shooting hours)?  If you answered 12pm, you would be correct!  Not only do they know this is when the hunters won’t likely be in their stands, but deer are nocturnal and likely have been feeding all night.  So they bed down for several hours and then they wake up again and are hungry…around noon.   I try to get in my stand as early as possible, and then leave sometime around 1-1:30pm.  Don’t get me wrong though, deer are still VERY active in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset and I call that “magic hourâ€�! 


The 15 minute rule:

 This is a rule I made up for myself and I will fill you in on my best kept secret.  I call it my 15 minute rule.   What this is, is that when I decide that its time to leave, to the point I am sick of being in my stand and I start packing up my things.  I stop and hunt for 15 more minutes.  This has resulted in seeing numerous deer!  I learned this because I cannot tell you, how many times I saw deer when climbing down my deer stand.  Anyone who hunts is nodding their heads in agreement right now. 

One time while hunting a few years back it was one of the last days of the season.  As my luck would have it, there was a beagle or some sort of hound that had gotten loose and was barking and howling his head off behind me.  Let me be the first to tell you, deer hate dogs! Some people use dogs to hunt, wearing out the deer and finally killing them when the dogs have them surrounded and exhausted (I hate this).  So if you hear a dog chasing deer, your hunt is basically ruined.  I listened to this dog get close and get far and get close and get far for like 20 minutes.  I was so angry I could have performed the 3 S’s on that dog (shoot shovel and shut up).  So after 20 minutes I gave up and climbed down my stand and the second my foot hits the ground, that dang dog scared up one of the biggest bucks I have ever seen about 20 yards away from me.  He froze and stared at me, I stared at him and then he took off, never to be seen again.  So that is one of the reasons why I created the 15 minute rule.  The 15 minute rule only works for morning and afternoon hunts, not evening hunts because the law only allows you to hunt 30 minutes after sunset.  It would be to dark then anyways. 


Moon Phases:

In your pursuit of knowledge of deer hunting, you will hear people talk about what the moon phase will be prior to a hunt.  The presumption is that hunting after a new moon (pitch black dark) will lead to increased deer activity and hunting after a full moon (big white and bright) will result in not seeing anything.  So since deer are nocturnal, they will feed more and longer overnight with a full moon and not move around the next day versus if there is a new moon, they can’t see as well and won’t feed much and come daybreak, they are ravenous to get food.  I don’t place much (if any) value in moon phases.  Here is why:  Deer’s eyes are designed to see in the dark.  They can see in pitch black dark nearly as well as they can with a full moon.  Also, even if it were true, I don’t know about you, but have you not stuffed yourself at a buffet so hard and then wondered why you were hungry again 4 hours later?  Don’t get caught up in it.  Because what it does is give you a bad attitude and from my story below, we know what the result of a bad attitude is…mistakes being made and opportunities being missed.



Have the mental toughness of a hunter:

  I don’t know about your mental toughness but mine can be pretty weak at times, especially hunting.  When you get into your head that the deer you spooked will be the only one you see today, or since you haven’t seen a thing then you will continue to see nothing and you might as well leave, or you get frustrated for whatever reason, STOP.  Try to turn that weakness around into a positive attitude. 

Here is an example and another mistake/s that I made while hunting to prove my point.   It was the opening day of bow season a few years ago.  I had set my climbing stand up a week earlier and I knew where it was.   I had gotten there in plenty of time so I was not rushed.  I put on my camo, sprayed down again with scent spray and reached for my safety harness.  This is where the first problem occurred.  For some reason, I could not for the life of me, figure out the strap and buckle system of this harness!!  I have used this harness a hundred times before but something was screwed up with it and it took me 20 minutes to figure it out.  There was no way I was not going to hunt without it, so I either had to figure it out, or I go home.  So finally I get it figured out and I am PISSED because all that extra time I had was now out the window.  So I start walking to my stand and I lost track of where I was and spent the next 20 minutes trying to find my dang stand.  I thought maybe someone had stolen it and I cannot begin to tell you how angry I was! Eventually I found my stand, after I worked up a HUGE sweat, after I tracked my scent all over the area I was planning on hunting.  So I climb up in my stand, the sun is peaking up over the hills and I pull out my cell phone and start firing away angry text messages to my dad to keep him up to date with what’s going on with my hunt.  I kid you not, during the middle of my texting tirade; I got busted by a huge doe.  She was within 15 yards and I never knew it.  Now that obviously did not help my mood at all, but I learned an important lesson and that’s to ALWAYS no matter what, maintain a positive attitude.  Had I calmed down when I got in my stand, the hunt would have gone much differently.


I am in my stand.  Now what?
  Be still, be quiet and be patient.  You wait for a deer to come.  Just as the human eye is attracted to movement, so is the deer’s.  Every move you make needs to be slow.  I struggle with this and it has resulted in some spooked deer.  When I am in my stand, I take this time to soak in the beauty and vastness of God’s creation.  I take this time to pray, read the Bible and watch nature do what natures does.  This is the reason why I can enjoy every hunt and why I don’t have to kill something to feel successful.  You can leave all of your struggles at home and watch how the rest of nature tends to move on in simple fashion.    

Here is a free tip for you.  When using binoculars, do NOT put them up to your eyes and rotate your head/body while scanning the environment.  Instead, pick out a spot with your naked eyes (sort like a grid pattern) pull up your binoculars, hold them still and move your eyes around that spot you picked out.  Left right up and down.  Then after you have looked at that area, move to the adjacent areas and do the same thing.  The reason why this is important is first of all, you reduce your chances of not spotting a deer.  You won’t always have a deer standing broadside out in the open for you to easily see.  A lot of times they are bedded down or in thick cover and you will only pick up on ear movement or a flash of antler.  The other reason why you use binoculars in this way is to limit your movement.  Deer will see you moving around up in your stand while using your binoculars incorrectly. 

I would like to re-emphasize safety here for a moment.  If you ever think falling out of your stand won’t happen to you, then you are dangerously teetering on the edge and you won’t get a warning when you start to fall.  Always wear a safety harness.  There are even lifeline systems that allow you to be 100% attached to the tree from the moment you take your first step, all the way up, and all the way back down until you unhook.  Hunters fall out of their stands for several reasons.  Climbing up and climbing down, equipment malfunction, poor decisions or falling asleep just to name a few. 

The closest I have every come to falling out of my stand was when I was hunting as a kid down in Mississippi. I had just climbed up to my hunting height using a climber and safety harness.  As I was turning around my stand shifted and nearly sent me over the edge.  Let me tell you, it happens quick! 


Where to shoot a deer:

  Shot placement on a deer is anywhere that will provide quick humane kill without damaging or spoiling meat.  That means two places for me.  Either the heart/lung or the neck.  The advantage of a heart/lung shot is this:  The target is bigger and it provides a quick and humane kill.  The other location is the neck.  Now although that might sound a bit untraditional or barbaric, consider this: if you hit, it’s a clean hit and if you miss, it’s a clean miss.  You don’t risk wounding the deer making a neck shot.  The other nice reason for a neck shot is it bleeds a ton.  So if the deer runs, there is a blood trail that even a blind man could follow.  You can do a Google image search for deer vitals so you know where to shoot them.  What you don’t want to do is shoot them in the gut or legs etc.


Quick Tip:
It is much harder to shoot a deer walking or running than it is to shoot one standing still.  So how do you stop a deer in its tracks?  Make a noise!  Noises can be whatever you choose to make.  Most hunters prefer to mimic a buck grunting.  Some whistle, some yell “heyâ€�and 9 times out of 10, that deer will stop in its tracks and look directly at you.  They are masters at pinpointing sounds so make sure you are ready to fire the second they hit the brakes. 


After the shot and in the stand:

So you have your first deer in front of you, your heart will be exploding out of your chest.  Even after 19 years of hunting, I STILL get so excited to have wildlife in front of me!    About 30% of the deer I have killed have dropped in their tracks, the other 70% have hauled tail into the woods up to 75 yards or so.  Just because a deer runs, doesn’t mean you made a poor shot.  I have not been able to find any rhyme or reason as to why some deer drop in their tracks and some run off.  So, you place your crosshairs behind the shoulder and slowly squeeze the trigger.  What next?  You watch, you listen and you wait. Use land marks (trees, branches, bushes, dark spots, light spots anything) to remember where the deer was standing when you shot.  Watch the deer run off and make a mental note of where you last saw the deer.  Secondly, you listen.  You listen for the sound of the deer running off so you get an idea where it was headed even after you last saw it.  The other thing you want to listen for is the sound of a “crashâ€� when the deer collapses into the leaves.  The last thing and the hardest thing you need to do is to wait and there is a very important reason as to why.  Often times, even after the deer crashes down, the deer still take its time to expire.  If you get out of your stand before that deer is dead, then you will bump that deer further into the woods making recovery much more difficult.  So you should always wait at least 15-20 minutes after you shoot before you go look for it.


After the shot and on the ground: 

First, don’t lose your common sense!  Follow all safety procedures to climb out of your stand.  What you will want to do after you get down is to go to where you shot the deer.  Look for signs of blood on the ground, or around knee level on trees, grasses or branches.  When you see blood, that usually means you made a great hit.  Now I don’t always do this, but on longer recoveries, I take out toilet paper and tear off the squares of it and place it next to the blood I see every so often.  The reason why this is a good idea is because it gives you a visual clue as to where the deer may be heading or if you lose the trail, it helps you get right back to where you last saw blood.  But the idea is to walk slowly and watch for the next drop of blood and follow the trail.  Look up every now and then and see if you see the deer.  Sometimes I have darn near tripped over my deer because I had tunnel vision on the blood trail and didn’t realize I had walked right up on it.  Also, you may want to call in a buddy or two to help you look.  One of the best reasons to hunt is comradely of being with other people.  If you don’t find it the first night, don’t give up.  Look for it the next day too. 


Field Dressing:

After you find your deer, take some pictures!  You will always regret not taking a picture and you will never regret doing so.  The important thing now is to get the deer field dressed (or gutted).  The reason why you need to gut the deer quickly is because the gut juices will spoil the meat.  It also makes it easier to haul the deer out of the woods and lift it up on a 4-wheeler or something.  You always hear there is more than one way to skin a cat, well gutting a deer is pretty much the same way.  Some people like to hang them up first, others like to gut them on the ground.  How you do it is up to you.  The best way for you to learn is to have someone help you.  If you don’t have someone to help you, your processor may do it for you and as a last resort, there is always YouTube!   What you don’t want to do is pierce any of the guts with you knife because that will cause fluids to leak and will spoil your deer.  I try to have my deer field dressed within an hour of killing it. 


Making Mistakes:

  There will be a time, actually several times where you make mistakes in the woods.  Hopefully they are mistakes that just cost you an animal and not your life.  Making mistakes are a good thing because you tend to learn better from making mistakes than you do from just reading about somebody else’s.  For example, I was turkey hunting a few years ago was walking down a hill trying to get to a spot where I thought would be productive when a gobbler fired off like a tornado siren within 100 yards of me.  So I immediately stopped in my tracks, found a tree, settled in and started calling.  This bird was so “in the moodâ€� that I could have farted and had him respond back!  He came in like a ton of bricks and I just knew he was going to be a dead bird.  Well the bird came in but I could never see him.  He stayed at the top of the hill I just walked down and he eventually got spooked and left.  I knew somewhere inside of me that I should not have set up on the hill because turkeys don’t like to go down hills, but it took me making that mistake in order to learn from it.  Don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes, or maybe you think you make mistakes but aren’t even sure if they were mistakes!   A successful hunt to me is one were I can go out, enjoy the nature God gave us to enjoy, learn something new and walk away safely.  It doesn’t always have to end in a trophy kill. 


There will come a time/s when you miss a deer.  It can be pretty humiliating depending on the scenario.  If you miss a deer at 300 yards that’s not a big deal, but if you miss a deer at 5 yards you feel like an absolute idiot.  Well let me go ahead and confess, yes, I have missed a deer at 5 yards before.  It the grand scheme of things, missing a deer is not a big deal.  It happens.  Spend and afternoon watching The Outdoor Channel and you will see people who make their living hunting miss deer.  It happens!  I hope that when you miss, it’s a clean miss and not a miss that wounds the animal.  


Well this list can be exhaustive but I will narrow down the accessories that you should have with you.

Lumbar Pack/Fannie Pack:  I have used one of these for most of my 19 year hunting career.  They are great because they hold a lot of gear and are quick to access and remove.  I don’t find backpacks are useful unless you are going to be traveling for miles such as on an elk hunt or something.  Backpacks are bulky and hard to access. 

Tow Line:  In your hunter safety course, you will learn to never take your gun or bow up with you as you climb your stand.  Always have a tow line to where you can attach it to your gun/bow before you climb up and once you are safely settled in, then pull up your weapon of choice.  Also, and this is obvious, don’t attach the tow line to your trigger guard. 

Toilet Paper:  As discussed before, this can be used to mark a blood trail but is also excitingly useful when you get the urge to “goâ€�.  Also a lot of times your nose will drip when it’s cold out, so it’s nice to have something soft to wipe your snot off with. 

Knife:  You should always have a knife with you.  You can use it for a thousand things not the least of which is field dressing your deer!  I use a Buck Zipper and have absolutely loved it.  It has a great gut hook on it, rubberized handle (Don’t carry anything with a plastic or wooden handle because when blood gets on it they get slippery) and it stays sharp. 

Binoculars:  Binoculars are not a “must haveâ€� item but they are nice to have.  I have found that it helps make my hunts more enjoyable being able to glass animals as they come and go. 

Zip Lock Bag: I put my toilet paper in here as well as my cell phone.  Both are not very useful when wet!

 Snacks:  Always have some snacks with you.  Eating helps speed up your metabolism and can help keep you warm.   Also, as mentioned before, there is a direct relationship being comfortable and seeing deer while hunting. 


Recommend me a rifle:

  Sure thing!  I love spending other people’s money for them!  We all know the caliber war will continue forever but I have found what I think is the rifle that fits for nearly every person and/or scenario.  That is a .243 Now, let me explain to you why I think this is the perfect caliber for the deer.  A .243 is a fast and flat shooting gun.  If you sight it in at 2.2â€� high at 100yards you will be in the kill zone of the deer between 0 and about 330yards without having to hold over or adjust elevation.  The 243 is a very capable round.  I watched a hunting show where a guy shot a Boone and Crockett buck at 364 yards and it dropped in its tracks using the 243.  The other big reason why I like this caliber so much is because the rifle is very light weight with little recoil.  So this would be a great gun to give to your son or daughter or even as you get older you may not want a rifle that beats you to death.  Like I said, this rifle will work for 98% of the scenarios you would want to use it for. 

Now, the only downside is that you won’t want to use this rifle for anything much larger than a deer.  If you are going to shoot Elk, Caribou, Moose, Bear or the like, you will want a larger caliber. 

There are a TON of great calibers out there and everyone has an opinion.  The truth is, deer are not that hard to kill.  Anything from 243 on up will be just fine. Personally, I hunt with a .270


Teach someone to hunt:
   Hunting is a sport decreasing in popularity and that is a problem.  People growing up these days don’t even appreciate or know where their food comes from.   Also, there are people out there who are enemies of pleasure and don’t like it when people can provide for themselves.  In the age of desensitization with violent video games and movies, hunting is a real way to teach others about life and death.  Properly mentoring a new hunter can teach them to value what we have been provided on this earth and to be good stewards of such.  Don’t wait to mentor someone else.  There will never be a time you feel like you “made itâ€� far enough along in hunting knowledge to where you feel like you can finally mentor a new hunter.  Take whatever knowledge you have and take them hunting.  They won’t know what you do or don’t know and they will have the time of their life. 

The next best thing to getting your first deer is watching someone else get theirs!


  Well I think I have covered the most important topics and hopefully have answered your questions in regards to getting started.  If it is still a little confusing to you, remember this, there is no better teacher than nature.  Go find yourself a spot to hunt and sit out there.  You will learn something each time you go!  A lot of the above material is useful for all types of hunting as well whether it is squirrel, turkey, duck or dove.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask here or send me a PM.  Keep me updated on your success!!


For More information regarding foot plots, deer management, and hunter management strategies visit www.qdma.com
For great educational and hunting videos, visit www.growingdeer.tv


~ Slappy

Edited by Slappy
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This will be my 2nd year. I appreciate the advice. Last year, I only saw one dear, and it was too far to shoot. Hopefully, I can find some private property to hunt on, and not have to drive 3 hours to coffee county. Not a fan of Foothills WMA. I did get 2 managed hunt tags (chuck swan-bow and tellico-gun).
your advice will help me out.

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This will be my 2nd year. I appreciate the advice. Last year, I only saw one dear, and it was too far to shoot. Hopefully, I can find some private property to hunt on, and not have to drive 3 hours to coffee county. Not a fan of Foothills WMA. I did get 2 managed hunt tags (chuck swan-bow and tellico-gun).
your advice will help me out.

That is a great thing that you recognized the deer was outside your range. Many "hunters" would have taken a shot anyways. I wish you the best of luck this year! If you keep getting out there you will get one.
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What is holding you back from getting started?


Just little stuff like time, money, ....  


I work with a number of avid hunters, unfortunately most all of them hunt leased property that's several hours to a whole day's drive away.  They tend to go for a whole weekend.  With two little kids, I'm not in a position to swing that just yet. 


In a twist of irony, my parents got a nuisance permit from TWRA a few years ago.  While they're only about 2 hrs away, the permit only allows a few "authorized hunters" other than the land owner, and I'm not one of them.    :shrug:   Having never hunted deer before, I'm not real comfortable just having a go all by myself during the season.   


Dad's never been a hunter.  His version of deer hunting is sitting in a lawn chair in his driveway drinking coffee with a .30-30 across his knees.  And yes, he's gotten a few that way.  When Mom used to leave early in the morning, she'd have to honk the horn to get the deer off the driveway so she could leave.  So much for scent control and hunting the wind...   :lol:


If I could find someone who hunts locally, I'd be willing to just tag along and not actually hunt just to get a better idea of how to go about it. 

Edited by peejman
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Could someone tell me where you get a 500 cubic inch vest in orange? Although I think I would feel like a sumo wrestler wearing it, the law is the law.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

Tn law says you have to wear 500 inches of blaze orange. But all 500 inches won't come from a vest, you will need another article of clothing. So buy a vest and a hat and you will be good to go. If its warm, you can wear a ball cap and if its cold, you can wear a knit cap, as long as it is blaze orange.

Edited by Slappy
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[quote name="Slappy" post="1036470" timestamp="1379709673"] Tn law says you have to wear 500 cubic inches of blaze orange. But all 500 inches won't come from a vest, you will need another article of clothing. So buy a vest and a hat and you will be good to go. If its warm, you can wear a ball cap and if its cold, you can wear a knit cap, as long as it is blaze orange.[/quote] I'd be willing to bet it says square inches not cubic. Either way it is a very well thought out post. Thank you! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD Edited by Dane
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