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A Beginner's View into Learning to Hunt Deer
My hope with this article is to provide some insight into learning to hunt deer from someone who didn't grow up hunting. I am an outsider to the sport and very much tried to ask (and answer) the dumb questions so you don't have to. Learning a new sport or hobby can be intimidating, especially when people use jargon you don't understand and don't always explain what they are talking about, because everyone else already knows.
This article is about my first impressions and what I learned on my first hunting trip.
First Steps to learning to hunt:
- Take a hunter education course. (Tim and I took ours from Mass Wildlife)
- Optional: Take a firearm safety class to get a license to carry a firearm. (Tim and I took Boston Firearm Training Center)
- Find a friend or hire a hunting guide. (We found a friend, but lacking friends who hunt, you can hire a guide.)
#1 How To Draw a Crossbow
When drawing a crossbow, the bow must be set in the "fire" position (the safety-off). As you draw the bow up, it will lock the string into place and set it into "safe" mode. If the bow is in "safe" mode when you draw the crossbow, you will hear the string lock into place however it will be locked lower than required and will not fire. You will load the arrow, put the crossbow in "fire" mode and be unable to pull the trigger. To fix this, remove the arrow. Set the bow to "fire" mode, draw the string back higher, where it will lock into position in it's proper position.
Like everything else, how did we learn this? We drew the crossbow, set the arrow, I lined up my shot and squeezed the trigger. I first thought it was not like a gun trigger and required a bit more force, I squeezed harder, thinking I was a weakling. Nope, the crossbow was locked. Luckily we learned this while practicing with the crossbow in the backyard, and not while staring at a live deer.
We were hunting with the Barnett Whitetail Hunter Crossbow.
#2 Camo is for Show
Camouflage is mostly just for show. In fact, deer are color blind which is why the hunter orange works great at preventing other hunters from accidentally shooting each other. The deer can't see orange from green or brown. The camo however is good for the pattern, and blending in rather than being a solid mono-tone color. However if you are in a tree-stand it doesn't really matter what you are wearing.
I will admit when seeing hunters, I was intimated by their large guns and head-to-toe camo. So it's good to know, you don't need military style camo to hunt.
#4 Counting #-point Buck
The number of points of a buck (8-point buck) is the physical count of the points on it's antlers. This may seem super obvious to those who live close to life-long hunters, but ask any city folk what 8-point buck means and they may attribute it to something like a 25k carat diamond, means it is a big deer but don't have a sense of what it exactly means. The number of points is related to genetics, how much food the deer found and how big it is, not a direct count of how old the deer is.
#5 Hunting Can Get Cold
Hunting, by that I mean sitting in one spot waiting for a long while, can get mighty cold! Wear layers, bring gloves, scarves, hand warmers, etc. Don't forget warm boots and your hunter orange vest over top.
#6 Deer at Creatures of Habit
Whitetail deer are creatures of habit, they will walk the same trail even if they got shot at yesterday. We saw a 6-point buck but missed the shot. Afterwards we talked to our guide's father who said he also took a shot at the same deer a few days ago. Near-death experiences don't seem to change a deer's habits.
#7 Deer Sleep in Dense Brush
Deer will sometimes bed down in leaves or bushes during the day. Walking around the woods can spook from from their spot, where you might have a chance to hunt them. While deer typically are most active at dawn and dusk, you can sometimes spot them grazing during the day.
#8 Bucks Follow A Doe and her Fawn
Very often if you see a doe and her fawn there will a buck on her trail, looking for a mate. Since she already has a kid, she puts off pheromones that tell the buck she is more apt to mating. So if you see the doe/dawn pair, wait for the buck.
#9 Coo at the Deer
If you want the deer to look at you, to line up a shot better make cooing or clucking noises at it. Just like you would cluck at a horse or coo at a baby to get their attention, it works the same with the deer. They may take a step out from behind a tree, so you can line up your shot.
#10 Deer Hunting Can be Relaxing
Sitting in the woods quietly, listening to the birds and squirrels while watching for any movement is quite relaxing. Until a deer walks by, then the adrenaline starts pumping.
Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to take down a deer on this hunt, but I am thankful for the opportunity to start to learn to hunt whitetail deer. Many thanks to our friend Doyle for taking us out on his land, letting us use his equipment, and for teaching us a thing or ten about hunting.
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Share you first hunting trip story in the comments below.
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