Deer Hunting Basics

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

from a tree stand.

Sitting still means exactly that. Notice how your eyes quickly detect flickering bird wings, scampering voles or bobbing squirrel tails. Deer are likely many times more able to pick up movement. Discipline yourself not to turn your head in response to every noise and not to scratch every itch.

Remaining on high alert for hours at a time is fatiguing. Better to relax and let your adrenaline pump only when a sound or movement alerts you. During calm conditions, especially when the leaves are crunchy from dryness or cold, you'll almost always hear deer before you see them. When the ground is wet or when the wind is blowing, you'll likely see deer but never hear them.

Deer have no appointments to keep. Any you see will probably be walking slowly and taking frequent stops to browse on vegetation and to scan their environment. You'll usually have plenty of time to get ready for a shot and then to shoot.

Unless you're stuffed with kapok, the sight or sound of a deer will likely quicken your pulse and breathing. As your adrenaline level rises, you'll feel an urgent need to act quickly to dispel the tension of the moment. The moment demands, however, that you move even more slowly and deliberately.

The short amount of time that you are in range of a deer and prepared to shoot it is the essence of hunting. Your actions during this period decide whether the deer escapes, is wounded or is harvested.

Hours of target practice should have given you confidence in your bow or gun and, especially, in your ability to hit a target. The best target on deer is its chest cavity. All other targets on a deer have less chance of making a clean kill.

Raise your weapon when the deer nibbles at plants, looks away or moves behind a tree trunk or brush. Wait for a clear broadside or quartering-away view of the deer's chest.

Don't aim at the whole deer. Instead, sight precisely onto a spot just behind the deer's shoulder and about five inches up from the bottom of its rib cage. Aim slightly higher if shooting from an elevated stand.

After the Shot

Even a perfectly placed shot will not always immediately down a deer. A surge of adrenaline may give a mortally wounded deer the ability to run a hundred yards or more before expiring.

Don't move after shooting the deer. Instead,

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