Deer hunting is one of my favorite past-times of all time, and as someone who almost exclusively hunts with a rifle – I figured I’d walk you through my mental checklist before every hunt.
Whether you’re new to hunting, rifle hunting, or deer hunting with a rifle — I am certain I’ll be able to share some knowledge with you.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to keep in mind as you prepare for your hunt and show you just how easy and intuitive getting into deer hunting can be. I know that for a lot of beginners, the jump from waterfowl or small game hunting to deer can be intimidating, but I argue that it is even easier – as there are generally a lot fewer things to keep track of.
Let’s get to it!
1. Know and Follow Local Laws
Regardless of how and what you hunt, you always want to familiarize yourself with the hunting regulations and laws in your specific area.
Make sure you have all the necessary licenses and tags required for deer hunting, and that you’re using legal ammunition (stay away from lead) and fire-arm.
To find out the regulations in your area, go to your state’s government website. For example, as a Washingtonian, I would go here.
2. Scout Your Hunting Area
Before the hunting season begins, I urge you take to some time to scout out the area. I love going on hikes or little camping trips around the places I expect to hunt and make an effort to look for deer tracks, rubs, and scrapes.
Pay close attention to feeding and bedding areas to determine where deer are likely to be and learn the signs of the deer in your area.
And besides, it can be a fun way to combine hunting prep with family or friends time! Bring a tent and some beers and make a trip out of it!
3. Use Appropriate Caliber and Ammunition
Choose a rifle caliber suitable for deer hunting. Popular choices include .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and .308 Winchester.
Please ensure that you use appropriate ammunition designed for deer hunting to ensure clean and ethical kills. Trust me, I am on Reddit, I see all the crazy powerful weapons people mow down deer with and I absolutely do not recommend it.
Going too powerful on deer is going to seriously mess up the meat, and if you can’t harvest the deer you just killed something for no reason. Which is a bummer.
4. Practice Shooting Skills
Practice makes perfect. That goes for everything. But I would argue that in a sport that involves deadly weapons and unpredictable animals, it is even more important.
Take time to regularly practice your shooting skills with whichever rifle you’re using from various positions and distances. Make sure you are as proficient with your rifle as possible, and that you know all its ins and outs, capabilities, and accuracy.
Also, I recommend practicing in different conditions. If it’s rainy out, don’t use that as an excuse to not go out – use it as an excuse to go out.
5. Optimize Your Optics
Invest in a good-quality scope with appropriate magnification for deer hunting. Ensure it is properly sighted in and zeroed in before the hunting season begins. Familiarize yourself with the scope’s reticle and adjust it for various shooting distances.
I have funky eyes so I’m not going to give you any recs, but I recommend taking the time to do proper research and find the perfect scope for you.
6. Concealment and Scent Control
Deer have keen senses, particularly their sense of smell. Pay attention to your scent by using scent-reducing products, such as scent-free soap and detergent, scent-eliminating sprays, and clothing designed to minimize odors.
Check out my guide on scent control in deer hunting here!
7. Choose Strategic Stand Locations
Set up your deer stand or blind in areas where deer are likely to pass by, such as travel corridors, pinch points, or near food sources.
This is obvious, however. What you really need to watch out for you in your stand location, is to regularly check the wind direction and ensure that you’re positioned as neatly as possible in accordance with the elements.
Check out my guide on hunting in high winds here!
8. Hunt During Prime Times
Deers are most active during dawn and dusk, commonly called the “golden hours.” Plan your hunts during these times for increased chances of spotting and encountering deer.
This is made even better by the fact that these are also the most beautiful hours. Seriously nothing is more dopamine-inducing than finally spotting the silhouette of a ten-point buck against the morning sun.
God, I love hunting.
9. Slow and Quiet Movements
When you’re in the field, move slowly and quietly to avoid alerting deer. Take calculated steps, and if you need to scan an area, do so slowly and methodically.
This is where previously scouting the area can help you a lot as well. If you’re familiar with the terrain, you are much more likely to place your steps in a way that will minimize sound, and you might have to skip out on a lot of extra scanning.
10. Practice Patience
This seems like the most difficult skill to master for new hunters. But the reality is that with deer, you’re going to have to sit for extended periods, remaining still and quiet.
I think of deer hunting partially as meditating, or fishing. I set up shop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the beautiful nature God has graced us with while I patiently wait for that elusive deer.
Deer Hunting With Rifle: A Beautiful and Meditative Craft
So there you have it, 10 tips on deer hunting with rifle. A lot of the same hunting practices that go for everything else count here as well, but I think it’s reassuring to understand that you really don’t need to think much when you go out.
Deer hunting, especially with a loaded firearm and not a bow, is incredibly intuitive and fun. It’s a beautiful, meditative, and fun sport that will create forever memories.
Follow this mental checklist, and whether you’re an experienced veteran or a brand-new Zoomer, you will eventually see success in your future.
Good luck, and happy hunting!
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