Deer Hunting 101: Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated August 5, 2021

Hunting deer is one of the most popular hunting activities in the United States. Many hunters head out, weekend after weekend, in search of trophy bucks. To keep the deer population in check but not endangered, there are many laws and regulations surrounding the when, where, and how of deer hunting.

In this article, we will provide you with some basics about deer hunting, including where to hunt deer, how to prepare for deer hunting, how to track a deer, and tips for deer hunting success. 

Photo Credit: DeerAssociation.com

If you are looking for a specific topic, feel free to use our table of contents to jump to what you’re looking for. 

Table of Contents

Deer Hunting Basics

Hunting Tips

Get Your Gear Together

Conclusion

Preparing For The Hunt

Deer Hunting Basics

Hunters love going out in search of the elusive thirty-point buck but most are happy with an 8 or 10-point in reality. Deer hunting can be extremely fun, challenging, and is a great way to tap into the days of old where hunting was a necessity for survival. Deer meat is highly desired but most hunters do it more for sport than meat. However, there’s no sense in letting good venison go to waste, either way.

Why Hunt Deer?

Is deer hunting necessary or just a fun activity? Well, the truth is, people hunt deer for many reasons including their widespread availability, the large amount of meat you get from a single deer, and the thrill of the hunt. 

Photo Credit: AnimalTourism.com

Overpopulation of these animals also increases the likelihood of causing car accidents and keeps the deer in the area at a sustainable level for the environment. With waning food sources, deer would starve to death or decimate the local ecosystem if left unchecked. Hunting is a more humane, ethical way of keeping things under control.

Types of Deer to Hunt in the U.S.

White-tails are by far the most popular species of deer to hunt. However, depending on where you intend to hunt, you might find other types of deer are more common. Be sure you know what you are hunting and what is allowed by law before pursuing your target.

Photo Credit: SLTrib.com

White-tailed Deer

Bucks of this species can weigh up to 300 pounds, although those weighing around 150 pounds are more common. These majestic animals can be found all over North America. Whitetails are distinguished by their reddish-brown hide and shock-white tails that stand straight up when they detect danger. 

Mule Deer

Mule deer frequent the west due to the drier climate and are commonly found in and around the Rockies. These deer are distinguished by their large, mule-like ears and short black tail that resembles a rope. This type of deer tends to be larger, weighing up to 350 lbs, and is great for hunting.

Black-Tailed Deer

Black tailed deer are typically smaller than mule deer or whitetails and showcase a jet black or dark-brown tail with a white underside and are darker in color than other types. They are usually found along the Pacific coast. These smaller deer generally weigh in at around 200 pounds.

Other types of deer, such as red deer, axis deer, elk, or musk deer are also commonly hunted. If you’re looking for a particular type of deer, do a search to find out where they are plentiful before planning your next hunting trip. 

Where to Hunt Deer In the U.S.

Now you know about the types of deer to hunt. So, where do you find them? You can find deer across most U.S. states. However, here are some of the top spots for hunting deer.

Kentucky

Kentucky is home to nearly a million deer with an average of 23 deer per square mile. There is ample opportunity for trophy bucks in the area but hunter density is becoming an issue. 

Ohio

Ohio also has some big bucks in the area, however, getting your license, even from out of state won’t cost you big bucks. With some of the cheapest licensing fees, this is a great place for budget hunters. 

Photo Credit: Boone-Crockett.org

Wisconsin

You’ll find plenty of large herds full of huge deer just ripe for the picking in Wisconsin. There’s also plenty of public lands available for hunting but you’ll be greeted with a sizable number of hunters too. 

Mississippi

This is home to some of the largest and most unique ruts for deer. The farther south, the bigger the rut. And with nearly 2 million deer roaming the area, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. 

You’ll also find plenty of deer hunting opportunities in Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. No matter where you live, there’s likely a deer hunt nearby. 

When to Hunt Deer

When should you hunt deer? It is best to start your hunt early in the season. Deer hunting season is often limited, depending on your hunting method and once deer are accustomed to being hunted, the hunt becomes more challenging. Another great time to hunt deer is during the rut when they are breeding. During this time, bucks will be unable to resist the call of a female and will often approach your decoy or calling area. 

Time of Day

It should be fairly obvious that hunting at dawn or dusk offer the most opportunity. This is when deer are most active, giving you many targets. Just be cautious of the laws and regulations in the area since some places do not allow hunting in the dark or the use of certain optics, such as night vision products. 

You can also hunt by using the moon phases as a guide. There are many hunters who swear by this method.

Get Your Gear Together


If you’re hunting, you definitely need to purchase a few things. For an avid hunter, you probably have many of these on hand. However, those new to deer hunting might need the breakdown. 

There is a never-ending list of items you can use for deer hunting. There are also laws and regulations you have to keep in mind. All of this will have some associated costs. 

Must-Have Deer Hunting Gear

When heading out on a deer hunt, plan on being out for the day. You never know how long you’ll be out there. Here are the most important pieces of gear to bring with you on a deer hunt

Photo Credit: OutdoorLife.com

Clothes

Well, it’s a no-brainer that you need clothing but there are specific types that will benefit you on a hunt. First, be sure to dress in layers. Temperatures vary wildly and weather can change. By wearing layers, you can shed layers when it’s warm or add them on when the temp drops. Just be sure any layers remain nearby. Having waterproof clothing is also a smart idea. Consider getting clothing that will blend into your surroundings. 

Weapon

Again, an obvious item. However, choosing your weapon carefully will ensure you have success on your hunt. Whether you choose a rifle or a bow, you will need a weapon capable of long distances and a humane kill. Many areas have regulations regarding the type, caliber, and power of your weapon so be sure you buy one that meets the requirements. 

Scent Control

Deer have very sensitive noses and can catch a whiff from a good distance away. Be sure you erase or hide your smell so that you don’t miss out on targets because they smell you coming. There are also products that add a “deer” smell to you so that your prey will think you are one of them. 

Deer Calls/Decoys

If you can lure deer to your location, it means you’ll get a better shot at one. The later in the season it gets, the more cautious deer become. So be sure you don’t use the same deer call or decoy as every hunter out there. Or have several to choose from. Formulate a plan of how you will use these helpful devices either together or separately before you head out. 

Seat or Blind

As we said before, you may be out there a while. And every single little movement is a potential deer siren. Staying as still as possible and in one place provides you with the best chance of bagging your prize buck. Therefore, you will either need a blind, stand, or at a minimum, a seat to rest on. 

Tags and License

Photo Credit: DNR.SC.gov

You will need a hunting license and proper deer tags in order to hunt. Hunting licenses are sold at stores that sell hunting supplies or through your state’s DNR website. Go to your state’s website to find locations near you. 

Don’t forget to bring something to carry everything in. Other helpful supplies include a compass, knife or survival tool, a flashlight or headlamp. 

Deer Hunting Regulations

No matter where you hunt, there will be regulations unless you can secure permission to hunt on private lands. All public lands have specific deer hunting seasons, regulations, and you’ll need to buy deer tags and keep them with you while hunting. 

Be sure you have all of the proper documentation, including your hunting license and written permission to hunt on private lands. Many states do not allow night hunting with the use of night optics. Be sure to know the specific regulations for the region you are hunting in.

Preparing For the Hunt

Now that you have your gear, it’s time to really prepare. First of all, research the area you plan on hunting in. Spend some time scouting the area to find the paths deer take, where they are congregating, and where their food sources are so you know where to set up. You can also set up trail cameras to watch the area and wildlife. 

Choose Your Weapon and Strategy 

At this point, you probably have your weapon but you’ll need to consider what ammo is best. If you want to hunt deer with a bow, your strategy will be different than hunting with a gun. 
Here are the 9 most popular locations for duck hunting success. 

Strategy

There are many hunting strategies. Do you plan on a run and gun strategy where your feet are on the ground? Do you plan on hunting from a blind or tree stand? You’ll need to set up in one location for a period of time. So know how you plan on hunting so you can pick the perfect spot. 

Tactic

Now, what is your tactic? Will you burrow down in the bush and hunt from under heavy cover? Do you plan on luring deer or waiting for your buck to stumble on your location? Will you set up from a high vantage point and look down? Are you hunting pre-rut, post-rut, or something in between? Figure out your strategy and tactic so you can research and prepare. Have at least one backup technique in case yours isn’t working. 

Deer Hunting Tips

Hunting isn’t always intuitive. If you’ve never hunted deer before, you may not know what you don’t know. Here are some other tips to give you success. 

Making the Shot

In order to assure an ethical kill, you need to hit a deer and take it down quickly. Besides, you don’t want to allow the deer to have the energy to get far from you. There are several places you can hit a deer to take it down. 

Shot Placements

A high shoulder shot is effective because it goes through the chest cavity, causing deadly damage. 

Photo Credit: AmmunitionToGo.com

Headshots are popular but can be challenging because it gives a small target and little else you can hit if you miss. 

The nearly impossible neck shot is the one that does the least amount of damage but is also a rarity. Even experienced hunters struggle with this placement. 

Photo Credit: AmmunitionToGo.com

The heart/lung shot is what most people practice on a stationary target at home. This has the most potential and even if you miss the money shot, you’ll still likely do some damage. This is also the shot that works with most deer positions, whether walking away, walking toward you, quartering to or away from you, or broadside. No matter what position the deer takes, this is a potential shot placement.

Tips For a Successful Hunt

Here are some other beginner tips for a successful hunt. There are nuances that you won’t know until you’re out there or someone with more experience fills you in. 

Scout

You wouldn’t take a test without reviewing the materials. And you wouldn’t take a trip without knowing the route you’ll be taking. So don’t hunt without doing the pre-work. Take some time to scout the area so you know what your hunt will look like on hunting day. 

Play the Wind

The wind can make or break a hunt. Use the wind to your advantage to keep your scent away from the deer or blow a deer attractant toward your prey. Pay attention to the wind and figure out how it can help your hunt. 

Know Where the Food Sources Are

Whether you want to hunt food sources or not, knowing where the food is will tell you the paths deer will be taking. 

Photo Credit: Bowhunting360.com

Know Your Weapon

Don’t head out and break in a weapon on the hunt. Do plenty of practice at a range or in a secure location beforehand to be sure you know the ins and outs of your weapon whether you use a bow or a rifle. 

Watch for Patterns

Animals are creatures of habit. Watch for patterns while scouting or with a trail camera to figure out the habits of the deer in the area. 

Pull the Trigger

Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger or release the shot. Hesitation will cause you to miss your shot. Line it up, breathe, and then take the shot, and follow through. 

Conclusion

If you are looking for more information on deer hunting, click on the links within our article or browse our site. We have many articles on various deer topics as well as other hunting types. 

Photo Credit: Realtree.com

Hunting deer requires you to continue learning new things. Once you take a deer down, you’ll need to know how to track a wounded deer, field dress, and process it. And you can always get better at hunting, tracking, and it never really ends. Always seek to hunt smarter, not necessarily harder. Thanks for stopping by and happy hunting!

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My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.