Hunting your first deer can be an intimidating experience. Along with the practical and ethical reasons for hunting, it gives us an undeniable surge of adrenaline to go out and bring an animal down. Those feelings, along with a general lack of experience and an unsteady aim, can turn beginner hunters away before they ever reach their true potential.
If you’re here, you’re new to hunting and want some help. We’re here to do just that. In this short guide, you’ll learn some handy tips and tricks that’ll make the experience more pleasant and fruitful.
You should have an idea of which equipment to bring. For deer, you’ll want blinds or stands. Fortunately, you can find the best tree stand and other items online.
Before we get to the fun stuff, you should be able to practice hunting legally and safely. Get licensed in your state if that’s what is required and make sure you’re carrying any firearm or other weapons legally. Then you should take a hunter safety course. Many can be completed in a few hours and with a written exam at the end. Many are free and facilitated online, too, so you have no excuse not to do it. You can then buy permits detailing your hunting permissions.
Next, weapon check. What are you using? Deer can be hunted with a rifle or a pistol, and some experienced hunters even get fancy and use bows or atlatl-supported javelins instead. Naturally, we’d suggest a rifle that’ll take down the deer with minimum fuss. It needs to be one you know well, you can shoot, and capable of killing a deer quickly.
Try out a few at your local supplier if that’s possible. Many beginner hunters gravitate to the big-brand rifles like the Remington Model 700, the Winchester Model 70, or the Ruger American Rifle. What you pick will determine the caliber. You should try to use calibers that balance punch power with recoil control, for follow-up shots.
Dressing for a hunt isn’t about style, it’s about blending in. You don’t need to go too deep into the rabbit hole of camouflage combinations and pheromone scents, you only need some reliable gear.
Along with your gun and ammo, you should bring a knife, a flashlight, your permits, a pen, and zip ties/bag if tagging your kills is necessary. As for what you wear, you should always wear a hat and vest that are blaze orange. You don’t want to catch a bullet because you were a little too good at blending in. Then wear gloves, so you don’t get your hands dirty, and make sure your clothing is warm.
Now you need to be in the right place at the right time. Finding those places can be tricky for a beginner. Unless you have private land with hunting rights, you’re likely going to hunt on public land or privately owned land if you have permission from the owners.
Locations nestled in wooded areas or on the edge of fields are best. You can hunt from the ground or from a stand, and it’s best when you arrive before sunrise so that the deer don’t watch you wandering around.
When your patience is rewarded, you’ll need to wait a little longer. Make sure the deer stands perpendicular to your rifle barrel and aim just behind their front shoulder, to try and score vitals. Turn off your gun safety (quietly!) and shoot. Chamber a live shell immediately.
Watch where it goes. Even with shots to the vitals, a deer will try to escape and then die somewhere else. Wait ten to thirty minutes and then start looking around. Why? Because by then the deer is probably dead nearby. You don’t want to chase it through the woods, the adrenaline will make it live longer and taint the venison meat. Look for blood and other signs of life when tracking the animal down.
If you’re successful, congratulations! Now you need to wrap up. Tag your game and then field dress it. This typically involves cutting between the pelvis and sternum, removing genitals and then cutting around the anus. Tie off the intestines and empty it out, including the heart, lungs, and windpipe after cutting the diaphragm away.
Take it to a meat processor for eating. As a beginner, you shouldn’t worry about processing the game yourself just yet. Make sure you have room for the meat!