John's Journal...

The Top Tips for Successful Deer Hunting

Day 2: Knowing the Land and Having the Right Firearm for a Successful Deer Hunt

Editor’s Note: There’s more to taking deer than just walking through the woods with a gun slung over your shoulder. Here are my rules to hunting deer the right way.

Click for Larger ViewDeer hunting is much like hunting Easter eggs. You must know where the eggs are hidden and the routes you can take to locate them before you can be successful. The same is true of deer hunting. Finding a deer to shoot is the most-critical part of the hunt. If you don’t know where to look, you’ll ask yourself, “What am I doing in this area?” You can learn the land you plan to hunt through several methods. Aerial photos and topographical maps can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey ( and at other sites and quickly can show you the big overall picture of the land you plan to hunt. You can see where the roads, the creeks, the clear cuts and the beaver dams are located on the property and/or any natural funnels where two-different types of habitats come close to each other forcing deer through the bottleneck. You also can draw-out the boundaries of the land you have permission to hunt. Some color aerial photos are quite expensive, but these help you to differentiate between hardwoods and pines, which may be critical information if the deer are feeding on acorns. Topographical maps show you the different elevations of a piece of property. From these topo maps, you can learn where the hollows, the ridges and the saddles are located. The most-effective way to understand a portion of land in the shortest time with the least amount of effort is by studying maps and photos of the land you want to hunt. After you’ve made your preliminary survey of the land, then an on-site inspection will reveal much-more information.

The terrain and the area where you plant to hunt will dictate the firearm you should use. If you’re hunting the open country of the West, you may need a .30-06, a 7-mm or a .270-caliber rifle with a 2X to 10X scope. If you’re planning to hunt over green fields in the East, where you may have a 150- to a 200-yard shot, these same rifles and scopes may be appropriate. But if you’re hunting river-bottom swamps, thick cover and/or creek bottoms, a .243, a .30-30, a 6-mm or even a .308-caliber rifle may be more productive, with possibly a 2X to 4X scope. By matching your gun to the terrain, you’ll be able to hunt and shoot more effectively.

Click for Larger ViewThe ability to know exactly where the bullet will hit once you squeeze the trigger at distances of 40 to 300 yards is critical to successful deer hunting. Many times you may have only a neck shot or a small opening through which to shoot. If you don’t know exactly where that bullet will hit once you squeeze the trigger, you won’t take-down the buck. Then your hunt will be in vain. Another factor to consider is the weight of your rifle. If I’m stalk hunting in relatively-thick cover, I don’t want to carry a heavy gun. I then prefer a 6 mm, a lightweight rifle that’s extremely deadly but easy to handle. If I’m attempting to take a deer over a green field or hunting from a tree stand where my shots may be long ones, and I won’t have to carry my rifle very far, I may choose a 7-mm rifle or a 270.

Oftentimes a hunter may think he’s in the right place to take a deer, but there’s no concrete evidence that deer will show-up in these areas. To hunt correctly, you must know . . .

* whether there are deer using the area where you’ve taken a stand;
* why the deer are using the region;
* from which direction the deer are coming into this place;
* which direction the deer are using to leave the spot;
* what wind direction must be present, so you can approach your hunting site without fear of scent detection;
* what time of day the deer are coming into the area;
* how long the deer have used the region;
* how long you reasonably can expect the deer to use the zone;
* what time of day you should reach your hunting spot to see the deer; and
* how long you may have to stay in your stand to be able to see and bag a buck.

IClick for Larger Viewf you can answer all these questions, then you can justify why you’re hunting in the spot you’ve chosen. If you can’t answer these questions, then you’re just stumbling around in the woods, hoping a buck accidentally will walk in front of you and present a shot. Stalk hunters probably make more mistakes than stand hunters do, because stalk hunters move more. The more you move, the more likely you’ll be seen by a deer. So, move less, and see more.

Click for Larger ViewMost stalk hunters (also called still hunters) hunt too fast to effectively see deer. As they move through the woods, they spook game, make noise and disturb all that’s in their paths. Most are convinced that where they’re going provides a better opportunity to see a deer than where they are. Realize that with every step you take, you see 40-percent more than you’ve seen from one step back. Therefore, spend the time looking at this new area of woods to see the deer, and pick-out objects in front of you. Then set a time as to when you plan to arrive at those objects. For instance, if you can see a large tree on the side of a logging road you’re slipping down, and the tree is 50-yards away, decide not to arrive at that tree for at least an hour. Set your pace, so you don’t cover that 50 yards in less than an hour. Also, be careful and take your time to keep from breaking limbs and making noise. If you’re spooking woods birds or frightening squirrels, you’re moving too fast. Remember, the slower you go, the more deer you’ll see. If you can move past a squirrel that’s 10-yards from you without ever spooking the animal, you’re hunting correctly.

Tomorrow: Successful Deer Hunting Includes Working With the Wind and Knowing Where Everybody Else Is Hunting

Check back each day this week for more about "The Top Tips for Successful Deer Hunting "

Day 1: Hunting Wrong for Deer
Day 2: Knowing the Land and Having the Right Firearm for a Successful Deer Hunt
Day 3: Successful Deer Hunting Includes Working With the Wind and Knowing Where Everybody Else Is Hunting
Day 4: Hunters Who Dress Properly and Hunt As Much As They Can Pay the Price for Deer Hunting Success
Day 5: Learning to Navigate in the Woods and Using Trail Cameras to Be Where the Deer Are

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Entry 646, Day 2