I always loved being in the outdoors as a child. I remember walking in the woods around the small streams on my families’ property, sifting through the pebbles and rocks in hopes of finding a lost arrow head or piece of flint. Picking up vibrant, fall blackgum leaves on the forest floor and getting lost in the deep yellow, red, and almost purple hues. While I always enjoyed my time in the woods, it wasn’t until my late teens when I started hunting that I really started to appreciate and care for what I was so deeply enthralled. Hunting really drove me to learn about the animals, plants, and ecology of it all. It provided me with a hobby that kept me in the woods and cleared my mind. I had a few mentors here and there and picked up tips and tricks whenever possible. There are many invaluable do and don’ts that every new hunter should know of, but also many tricks of the trade that might not be as obvious. Doing research, asking around, and learning from many passionate and dedicated hunters has been summed up in this list that should help any novice or experienced hunter have more success and excitement in the woods.
1. Do as much pre-season scouting as you can. Look for sign such as game trails and scat. Find the natural corridors and passageways produced by constant travel. Deer, like many other animals, will take the path of least resistance when walking from one place to another, such as a bedding area to a feeding area. Look for rubs on trees and scrapes on the ground. Bucks will rub their forehead glans on trees and scrape up the ground to mark their territory and assert their dominance. Looking for these places will tell you where these deer are coming and going from and will allow you to identify good places to put a stand or blind
2. Hunt food sources. Deer are slaves to their stomachs so find the food sources that are producing at the time of the season you are hunting. Acorns are always a fan favorite. If you have a good stand of white oaks on the property you are hunting, you can bet there will be deer there at some point or another. Try and hunt theses stands early in the season into the fall while the acorns are dropping. After the acorns start to thin out deer will move over to fruit trees such as persimmon, apple, and black gum. Then when all the other food sources have been exhausted into the late season hunt green food plots if you have them. If you don’t have any food plots to hunt over the deer will be eating browse. This consists of tree leaves and new growth, shrubs, and forbs. The more you know about the local deer eating habits the better you can plan your hunts around their locations and food sources.
3. Hunt the wind. This is probably one of the most important tips any hunter can absorb knowledge from. Deer have an extremely acute sense of smell and will blow and run the second the smell a hunters coffee breath or breakfast sausage they ate an hour earlier in the truck. Many times a deer will circle around an area until it is downwind and then work its way back up smelling the air for anything out of the ordinary. During your preseason scouting as well as the changing seasons make sure you pay close attention to the prevailing winds and where you stand in them. In Georgia during the fall and winter the prevailing wing is predominantly out of the North West. If you get you stand set up to the south east of a good food source you should have much more success and not get busted out as often.
4. Reduce your human scents and visual cues as much as possible. Even if you are a master at hunting the wind there is still the inevitability that a deer will get downwind of you. The best way to keep a trophy buck from getting spooked is by practicing scent control and not smelling like the bacon biscuit you ate on the way to the deer woods. Wash your clothing with scent free laundry detergent and make sure there are no UV brighteners in the detergent or made into your clothing. While the colors red and orange look like different shades of grey; Deer can see into the ultra-violet spectrum of light, which means that any blue or purple in your clothing gives off a faint glow. Just like the glow you see when you hold up a black light to your clothes. Now I know that some folk and their grandads kill all kinds of deer with their trusty ol levi’s on, but to steer on the side of caution its best to stay away from wearing blue jeans or any other blue or purple colored attire. Also make sure when you are buying your camouflage that they did not make the fabrics with UV brighteners.
5. Finally, every hunter should know the weapon they are going to hunt with. Whether that is a bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, or rifle the hunter should be very familiar with their equipment. You should practice good habits during the off season to make clean shots. You can go out and shoot 5 boxes of ammo or 2 dozen arrows, but if you aren’t practicing good fundamentals and habits then you might not make the best shot in the woods. Taking your time to learn how to shoot well and where to shoot, is vital to landing a clean and fatal shot on an animal. You want to hit the deer right behind the shoulder to get a lung and/or heart shot. This will ensure that the animal is dispatched quickly. Patience is key when trying to take a good shot, so wait for the right moment and remember to breathe!