June 25, 2013
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Deer Hunting Essentials

Tips for a More Successful Hunt

Throughout the United States, deer are widely considered the most popular game by hunters young and old. The challenges, as well are rewards, are what makes this sport what it is.

As with any hobby or art, perfection does not come quickly or easily. Some hunters spend years and years out in the woods before they bag a true trophy.

In order to get the most out of your hunting experience, preparation is necessary above all else. If you grab your old rifle and walk out into the woods one day on a whim, your chances of seeing, much less bagging, are just about nonexistent. While every hunter has their own styles, tactics, and preferences for the big hunt, there are some basic points to consider to increase your chances of a successful hunt, and your chances of an enjoyable time outdoors.

When to Hunt
Two words: Dawn and dusk. While being careful to only hunt during your state's permitted hunting hours, dawn and dusk are generally the times of day you are most likely to encounter a deer. They may wander around a bit midday, but dawn and dusk are their preferred times to be out and about. Unless you are a ninja master, you are not likely to happen upon a sleeping deer and be able to take your shot before he is gone in the wind. You want him to come to you, because you will be stationary and ready and he will be moving and distracted.

Where to Hunt
This is where you will be situated during the hunt. Determining where you will be stationed PRIOR to the actual hunt is terribly important. If your scent is caught, there won't be deer anywhere near you for half the day or longer. This means you should pick out the perfect spot a day or more before you intend to hunt.

How should you choose the perfect spot? Find a spot near something that a deer needs. It sounds simpler than it is. A deer wants to do only a few things with his life: eat, sleep, mate, and survive. Well, their desire to survive is your biggest hurdle. The other three things are to your advantage. Find a spot near deer food. This means the ground is covered with green plants and other deer-preferred vegetation is nearby. If possible, take notice of tramped down trails, tracks, and scrapes on trees and set up your spot accordingly. If you find a spot full of tasty vegetation and there are signs that deer have been there recently, it means they will likely be back. Setting up near a probable "deer bedroom" is also a common tactic. Deer sleep where the vegetation and brush is dense and hard to see through. You will probably be unable to see the deer in the brush, but they can probably see you. Try to set up shop and get in position when the deer is probably out looking for food. When they return, you may have your shot. Lastly, during mating season, a deer has other "things" on his mind, and his preoccupied mind and drive to find a mate can be the advantage you need.

How do I Keep from Being Detected?
A deer's senses are far sharper than yours. You think you're camouflaged? He can see you. You can't smell anything? He can smell you. You think you're being quiet? He can hear you.

What can be done about this? For starters, be quiet. Don't cough, don't unnecessarily mess with your rifle or gear, don't have your cell phone turned on (I'll assume you already knew that one).

Secondly, don't be smelly. This means no smelly soaps, deodorants, or shampoos. This of course means no smoking. This can be killer for a heavy smoker, but it's a sacrifice that must be made unless you especially like sitting in a tree all day without seeing a single deer. Your natural body odor is a also a huge dead giveaway to a deer. Scent removers can be purchased and have been known to help significantly. If you are a heavy sweater, you may be detected more easily than the next guy. Try to keep cool (this probably isn't a problem for you fellow Michigan deer hunters!)

Thirdly, don't be seen. A man's shape is more easily seen by a deer than you might think. You've probably noticed your dog staring at another dog or a person from way down the street. Just because you can't see something it doesn't mean an animal can't. This means you should try to look less like a man. I'm not saying you should wear a giant pinecone costume, but you need to try to look a little less human-shaped. A very busy camouflage is recommended to wear while hunting, such as "Realtree" camo or something similar. Many hunting jurisdictions require hunter-orange clothing to be worn while rifle hunting, so be sure your outfit is within regulations. Having surrounding tree branches or brush for cover is possibly the best camouflage, but what you wear is certainly important, especially if natural cover isn't readily available.

What Should I Hunt With?
Rifle. Bow. Shotgun. It's a matter of preference. I never liked the idea of deer hunting with a shotgun, but some people just don't want to drive to rifle zones if they don't live near one. I always say if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right. Shotguns are for ducks and home invaders, rifles are for deer. There is no one perfect hunting rifle and no perfect bow for everyone. You will probably not find your tool of choice until you've gone out a dozen times and used a few different pieces of equipment. I personally prefer my Ruger Model 96/44M lever action. But it's a matter of preference. In Michigan, it's all about thick woods and close-quarters. This particular rifle wouldn't do you as well if you're hunting a mule deer across a bean field or something similar. If you're new to deer hunting, visit your local hunting/gun shop. The guys in there will almost certainly love to talk your ear off about hunting rifles.

To conclude, practice makes perfect. If you have common sense for safety and dedication to the craft, you will have an unforgettable time and have some experiences that great stories are made of.

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