Pro Deer Hunting Tips and Tactics

Anthony Cote
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Get rid of your smell

One of the biggest mistakes new hunters make is putting too much scent on while hunting. Some hunters will use multiple bottles, then use multiple scents. If you put on too much scent, then you become the deer's focus.

When you are hunting in the woods, you need to find a way to naturally mask your scent. One way to do this is to rub mud on the bottom of your boots. This will help you blend into the dirt.

Another option is to use an attractant instead of an odor eliminator. The scent that you use, should be something that a deer can easily smell. An example of this would be using the urine from a doe in heat. If a deer is close by, then it is very likely that it is a buck, as bucks are usually much further away, because they are the smaller parties in the relationship.

Whenever the buck smells the doe, it is going to be all over her. You have to use this to your advantage, although you also want to keep your smell down as well.

Be quiet

Another way you can get closer to a buck than you should be is by letting your feet or your scent give you away. For this reason, wear rubber-soled boots that don't give your position away, and dont wear bright clothing or noisy clothes. If possible, wear clothes that don't have a scent (usually fully cotton clothing or clothing made from synthetic materials). Stay downwind, and when you try to close the distance between you and the buck, keep natural cover such as brush between you and the buck. A good, strong pair of binoculars can help you see a buck more clearly, especially in poor conditions or from a distance. Make sure to keep the lenses, lens covers, and the binocular strap clean so that you dont do anything that would give you away to a buck, whose eyesight is very sensitive.

Learn the deer language

Be prepared

Be prepared with your gear and clothing. Visit your hunting area at least a month before the season starts to make sure you know the terrain and how to access the area. Make sure you know what it is like at the start of the season when hunting conditions are the harshest.

Hunters sometimes get injured, lost, or killed by not knowing these facts. Plan to be in your deer hunting location two or three weeks prior to the season.

Also, know the conditions of the season. Look at the weather forecast. Look at the conditions that happen during hunting. This way you will be prepared to use the right equipment for these conditions.

Scope out the area

The first tip to remember is to never rush your hunt.

Don't wander aimlessly around the woods. There are many points to watch out for deer, including water sources, feed areas, bedding areas, and travel routes.

Take the time to look for these things and note how the deer use them. If you set up a stand near a water source, make sure you have a water supply nearby.

Establish a system of check points. If you see deer at one location, mark that place with an X on your map.

Then before leaving that area, look around again.

The next day, or a day or two later, look for deer moving to that same spot.

If you realize that the deer used the same path, then place yourself in a stand nearby.

You don't have to rely on this one point all of the time, but it is a good start. You should look and see if deer are using another spot more often.

Also, try to figure out a pattern for the deer. If they are moving to a certain spot at a certain time, try to use that knowledge to set yourself up that same time.

Just remember to always watch out for natural predators while you are in your stand.

This may seem like an obvious point, but it is very important.

If you do not take caution, you will be in danger.

Put your stand in the right place

This is easier said than done, but is a key element to success. Normally I like to move my stand every year, and I factor wind changes and the frequency of first frosts into my decision. I could use statistics to describe where to hunt but I’ll simply say your stand should be about 20 yards away from the corn you plan to hunt. Look at the topography and find the food source. Is there a pond, creek, brush, etc. Place your stand on the upwind side (in the direction the wind will blow) of each key food source. This may seem like an obvious solution but it’s easy to place stands too close to each other at the beginning of the season and not cover all the ground. The number one question I get from customers is where to hunt. I usually give them specific advice based on their own setup and offer to come over and take a look with them if they want.

Bad spots can be good spots

Keep in mind that bad locations not only attract fewer deer than good spots, but bad locations are often in obvious terrain that provides easier approaches and a high chance for detection once deer are downwind. This is the exact opposite of the situation the buck naturally wants to be in.

It makes more sense for a mature buck to honk if he can choose the location. If you can find a pattern, you can also find the bucks hiding out, the ones that do not want to be seen.

There are many reasons that bucks like a bad spot. I’ve seen and used numerous systems to try to figure out why, like a calling system, posting cameras, rattling and raking just at that location.

Underlays of thick timber, overhanging limbs and brush, bull brier, fencerows, roads, saturated ground cover and ready food sources, like an old blowdown, a log pile, a big farmer’s field, and so on. These are top reasons why you might find a buck using a bad spot.

These are the reasons why you might find a buck using a bad spot.

In a perfect world, a buck would be in a place he could see for a mile in every direction, preferably looking across a big open flat, with head high food plots all around, with super abundant natural food, and a ready water supply.

Put your stand up early in the season

Put your stand up as early as you can before the season starts. This will give you an early jump on the deer and give you a jump on your hunting spot being taken by someone else.

However, there is a downside to having your stand up so early in the season. This will give the deer more time to find the scent of these stands.

Many hunting tactics can be applied to lure in the buck, and put it in range. This can be done using food, or just natural foods to lure in the deer.

You can also use doe decoys near the stand. If you live in an area that has a lot of hunters, the best way to beat them to the punch is to get themselves set up by the start of the season. This will ensure that you are ahead of everyone and have peace of mind in knowing that your stand location is safe from all hunters.

Practice getting into your stand

Hunting deer requires much patience. You need to remain in your stand for hours at a time and be very quiet and still.

It can be tempting to jump out of your deer stand and walk to another one but this could put you in danger of touching a tree or branch that could make a sound that the deer can hear. Instead, practice getting in and out of your stand without alerting deer.

The first step to getting down without spooking deer is to talk yourself through. Tell yourself you will do this slowly, making as little noise as possible, and that you will not rush it.

Visualize what you can and can't touch on your way down. Think about where you can step that will minimize your movements and noise. Think about where you can rest your hands and feet on the tree. If you need to rest on a branch to lower yourself, stabilize it with your hands steady it first and then rest your butt on it.

If you're getting on the ladder, set your foot about three inches from the edge of the limb and grab the tree and pull. As you do this, you'll begin to lower yourself to the ladder.

Gently let your weight relax onto your foot, and then shift your weight to your other foot and do the same thing. This will minimize your movements and any noise that could scare deer away.

Make sure you have a clear shot

Before you shoot, make sure you have a clean shot. If the deer has spotted you, they are likely to run away from you. In these cases, you will need to hunt them down and take a shot from close range.

This is when your hunting skills come in handy. Tracking the deer will help you spot the deer in their hiding places, and giving you an opportunity for a clean shot.

Pay attention to the wind

One of the best things that you can do for yourself when hunting is to pay attention to the wind. In the perfect world, you always want to be downwind from your quarry, and avoid getting yourself into any situation where you are at the mercy of the wind.

The amount to which wind is a factor varies depending on the type of deer hunting you are doing, as well as the time of year. The worst thing you can do is plan to get downwind of your quarry, and then throw that plan out the window because you become certain they will detect you, or something else goes wrong.

If you know that the wind is a factor, and it is crosswind, avoid trying to make a direct approach. Plan to approach in an indirect manner, and keep your distance by moving slow. If the wind is directly in your face then you can move directly to your stand, but if the wind is even slightly crosswind then you will need to move slowly and carefully to ensure that you don't spook your quarry.

A similar scenario is if you are hunting in thick brush, or an area that provides a lot of visual cover. In those scenarios you should realize that you are not going to be able to approach directly, and plan to slowly make your approach by edging your way forward. Anything that provides a distraction, or a visual obstacle that you can move around gives you a chance to use your wind strategy effectively.

Don’t intersect the deer’s path

To begin with, getting a deer to cross your path is more about knowing your terrain than about hunting skills, but you may still be able to spot a young buck crossing from your tree stand. Look for rubs and scat that are relatively fresh and consider yourself lucky if you happen to see a young buck crossing an oak flat or over a bare field.


The classic trick for intercepting a buck on his way to the bedding area is to intercept the deer’s path before the deer reaches his destination. Sounds simple enough, but in reality, this tactic is more difficult to pull off than it may first appear.

The deer’s home range is the largest in the rut, and you must find a location that places you at the outer periphery of this area. If you are in the deer’s home range after dark, he is used to seeing other deer in all phases of the rut. Even if you are able to catch the approaching buck in your rifle’s scope, you might have to hold off from shooting the buck as it comes near you in order to avoid spooking the deer.

–Pro Strategy—

Don’t “skyline” a deer blind

When you break this rule, you risk spooking the deer if you are too visible.

To avoid this mistake, set up your tree stand so the deer has a clear view of the trunk.

Deer are curious, and they will work hard to sneak a peek at you to make sure it’s safe to venture to your area. You won’t sneak up on them as easy if they can scope you out from far away.

Try to keep the tree and leaves between you and the deer at all times. If you follow these simple steps, it will likely result in a kill.

Clear your area

The second thing you should make sure is that the the area you will be hunting is free of any human scent. It is best to have a camouflage coveralls, or even a ghillie suit to look as leafy as possible.

The best thing to do is to wash the inside of your vehicle. Then make sure you have a change of clothes and wear them out to the area that you will be hunting.

Another thing you can do is to take decoys. Have the decoys or even other deer stand upwind from you.

In this way, the deer will smell the human scent on the decoy and not you.

Hunt at the right time

The best tip to be successful is to hunt as many times as possible, but hunting at the right time is of vital importance. Timing is the crucial component to determine the right time to hunt.

From around the 11th of August to the early October, searching for a buck is easiest because the bucks drop their antlers around this time. It takes them a while to grow them back as many as 5 months, during which they stay fairly close to their sheds so they can protect them from other bucks. This makes it easier to spot antlers. You will often notice that they are not roaming far from the antlers, generally within 200 yards.

After all, they have to keep them safe so they can bring them back next season to continue breeding.

Starting in October and through to late November and during the post-rut period in November and December, the bucks will start to roam a lot more because they have dropped their antlers and now they can concentrate on the rut. With the pre-rut period, the bucks are roaming around in search of does.

In the middle of the rut and early pre-rut period, the bucks are very protective of the does and they will be camping close to the does. Now is the time to locate the does.

Don’t leave for lunch

Drag scent from your stand out

This is a tip given to me by my late Dad. Deer have a very poor sense of smell so an easy way to cover up any human smell is to drag the scents out of the woods, away from your stand. I know it doesn't mean to drag your hand or hat out of the woods, but make sure to drag something out of the stand area.

Also a big thing to take into consideration is the wind direction. Even though deer vision isn't that great, they are able to see movement. So when your in your stand don't move your bow hand to retrieve your arrow. I know this is a big no-no for a hunter, but still try to avoid hand movement.

Don’t call too often

(but not too little either)

Deer can hear and smell extremely well, but they cannot see as well as other types of animals, particularly in low light. scent is their primary means of detecting danger.

If you are persistent, hunting shy does learn that your calling is not a threat. Be persistent, but not so much so that they become accustomed to thinking it is safe from you. Playing too often is just as bad as playing too little.

The rut might last longer than you think

We all know that the rut is the best time to be in the woods, but it can be just as hectic as it can be exciting. This means that the rut can last longer than you think. It can start in early October, and rarely ends before mid-November.

The males are very active, looking for females that are in heat, and that means they can be more easily targeted. This is easier said than done, obviously. There are many smarter animals out there, so it takes a lot of patience and it is crucial to put in the time.

You must be alert and aware of your surroundings, especially if you are in your backyard. You still need to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. It would be extremely difficult to get the drop on a deer that is ready to take off in any direction.

Having a deer stand that is camouflaged is helpful. The ideal camouflage is green moss. The moss provides an excellent means of concealment and it blends in very well. The state of North Carolina came to the realization that the paint used on deer stands was detrimental to the deer population and banned the use of it completely. Things have changed a lot over the years, and now there is better camouflage than ever. You can also invest in deer camo.

Make note of where you dropped your kill

Finishing up the deer is not the most exciting part of the hunt, but it is one of the more important aspects. Trust me, it's not fun lugging a deer with your hands. The way you get the animal back to your vehicle is through proper planning. The best way to transport a deer is the way you found it hiding in the woods.

You should either drag the deer, or drag it on a makeshift sled. If you are dragging the deer, make note of where you left the kill site. It can be easy to forget which direction you were headed.

Let the deer run

If you want to hunt deer, you must understand that you have to ease into deer hunting. There is nothing wrong with taking a doe (you can get plenty of meat from a doe) at the very beginning. You need to learn how to hunt deer and the habits of the deer that you are going to hunt.

After you start taking a few deer, you will feel more motivated to take you next deer as soon as possible.

Learning how to hunt deer is not impossible … as long as you keep your deer hunting feeling and emotions in check. This is what can sometimes get you into trouble. Whether you want to hunt deer that are running, or still hunting, you should learn a few things before you do.

It is very easy to get stressed with deer hunting. Deer hunting is like anything else inside of our world – it is not always going to be perfect.

Deer hunting is more than just a way to survive.

You need to remember that when you’re hunting deer.

Hunting deer is a long process that requires patience and strength. Each and every deer should be treated like a trophy and dear. If you don’t treat deer with respect, then you will have a hard time being excited about deer hunting.

Don’t approach a dropped animal immediately

Animals, especially a deer, only defends itself when faced with a threat. In most cases, you can get the best photo of the animal by standing still and waiting for your opportunity.

If you’re lucky enough to get the perfect shot, act as though nothing happened. This will make the animal less wary of you after it's gone.

Look everywhere for blood

A tip that I’ve found to be very true is to follow blood trails. Seeing where a deer takes off after being shot can give you amazing insight into where it is going to go at a certain point when you make your shot. Rather than looking at the position of the deer when the deer was shot you will want to look at its posture as it is leaving the area.

There are lots of variables in a hunting situation, so you will be surprised to see how much useful information you will gather from simply following a blood trail.

Leave breadcrumbs

Back at the camp, when you are out scouting.

If you are out looking for deer, it is very important to be quiet and minimize your human scent. That's why I used to carry chunks of bread in my back pocket. While deer often come close to my food plots, they sometimes won't come any further. I've found that I can get within 20 yards of them while giving them an occasional mouthful of bread and a steady stream of deer calls. They will follow that trail right to where I want them. I like to set up my tree stand for a shot just off that trail. This puts me right behind them when they start moving towards my stand. It's very effective.

Drag your kill out the easy way

If the deer is down, it's dead. Your meat is safe. Now it's butcher time.

Deer blood is very thick, sticky stuff that can take hide glue and really bond to fur and hair. It's not uncommon to come across a carcass that is stuck to the ground where it fell. Deer are also very hefty and can weigh in between 175 to well over 200 pounds. If you want to get it out of the woods and back to camp, you'll need to get a hold of it.

Stay away from the rut, and when you bag a deer, you're going to want to keep the other deer from seeing the prize all night long. If a herd of them thinks you're wounded, they'll be in on you.

The most important part of the process is making sure that you're not going to lose this trophy. They aren't so heavy that you can't drag them to a vehicle by hand if you have to, but dang, it sure makes things easier if you have a rope.

If you've been hunting in the current season, you probably put a strong nylon game bag and drag bag on the gun. If you have those attached, that's a great boost to preventing that deer from flying away on you.