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Deer Hunting Basics

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

are active around twilight and sunrise. However, researchers have identified other peaks in daily activity, one near midday and one or two peaks during the night.

Because they eat and rest in the same general areas, deer tend to travel the same routes between bedding and feeding areas, forming and following trails. Deer trails may be easy to spot-even rutted from hooves-or they can be almost indistinguishable, except to deer.

The trails often skirt open areas, parallel creeks and rivers or follow the contours of hills. Some trails are used primarily at night. Others are terrain trails that deer naturally use to travel from one woodlot or habitat type to another. Other types of trails include escape trails, which deer use to quickly leave an area, and mating trails, which bucks use to scout for suitable females during the mating season.

Hunting Deer

You can wait for deer to come to you or can try to go to the deer. The former method is called "stand hunting," the latter method is called "still-hunting."

Still-hunting involves moving through the woods-preferably into the wind-extremely slowly with frequent stops to search the terrain ahead. Wet ground, windy weather or soft snow work to your advantage when still-hunting. During any other conditions, the deer have the upper hand.

Many more deer are taken by stand-hunting than by still-hunting. It's easier to be quiet when sitting and, if you place yourself where deer can't smell you, your odds of surprising or ambushing one increase greatly.

Much of the actual hunting of deer can be done before the season begins. Experienced hunters scout potential hunting locations well in advance to learn about deer density and deer travel patterns.

Deer trails in open woods are not always conspicuous. Many times as you walk through the forest, unconsciously taking the route that offers the least resistance and fewest obstacles, you'll be surprised to discover that you're following a deer trail. It only becomes obvious when the trail leads through tall grass, soft dirt or extremely thick cover.

The best time to find deer trails is following a snowfall. That's also the best time to follow deer tracks to learn where deer are going. Following trails in the fall right before you hunt risks saturating them with your scent. Many hunters wear rubber boots when scouting and hunting to minimize the amount of scent they leave in the woods.

In addition to tracks on or near a trail, you

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