HUNTING

Whitetail Deer Hunting: Tips to Improve Your Game

Whitetail Deer Hunting
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Deer hunting is in full swing in many states right now. It takes time, knowledge and ingenuity to score the big buck and to fill your freezer with delicious venison meat. Whitetail deer hunting is complicated at first; however, learning some tips and tricks from experienced hunters can make the job a bit easier.

Whitetail deer are one of the most widely distributed animals in North America, making them a commonly hunted game in the country.

You can find whitetail deer in Maine all the way to Oregon. Hunters can even find them all the way in South America. You may notice them walking down your neighborhood in the middle of a suburb or the thick forests throughout our nation.

Many people think that because there are thousands of whitetail deer hunters each year that the process must be easier. In fact, it is quite the opposite. There are harder hunts, like the elusive mountain goats, but whitetails pose many complications for even the most skilled hunter. Deer are intelligent and wary, a difficult combination when trying to hunt.

See also: Mule Deer vs Whitetail: Together, but Not Mixed

There isn’t anything better than hanging a beautiful pair of antlers on your wall after a difficult season of hunting. Antlers show the age of a deer and are a reminder to the hunter of the strides they took to find and kill the deer. Also, venison is a lean and tasty meat with great flavor.

I have used venison in our spaghetti for years; no one is ever the wiser. Venison makes a great roast and stew as well. Eating deer meat is a huge reason to want to learn some great whitetail deer hunting tips.

Watch Multiple Feeding Areas

Most hunters focus on one feeding area during a hunt. However, that one location may not attract the deer for that day. A real hunting fanatic will check out several feeding areas in on hunting trip. Before you head out, you should scout for sectors that are close together, within an easy walking distance.

Watch Multiple Feeding Areas

Some hunters like to create their feeding stations with salt blocks and corn. However, to be a sustainable hunter, it is a good idea to find fields of oats, wheat, cornfields and other natural sources. Row crops, like soybeans, attract deer from miles away.

Deer love fruit trees as well. During the fall, whitetail deer like to eat nuts. While they frequent acorn trees, they tend to have a particular species of oak tree that they prefer in each area. White oaks are overall more prefer than others.

The ideal natural feeding area will have hedgerows or plenty of brush that allows you to move from one area to the other without the deer noticing your movements. Learning to read the winds is essential for any deer hunter. You want to come in downwind or with a crosswind because it prevents the deer from catching your scent. When you move into a new feeding area, stay quiet. Also see our informative article on how to find the best hunting times for your reference.

Understanding The Rut Season

The rut is the most important season of whitetail deer hunting. It has three phases: pre-rut, peak of the rut, and post-rut.

Understanding the stages and learning how to avoid common mistakes will increase your chances of scoring a huge buck in the upcoming weeks. Also, remember you can get a deer outside of the rut season; your chances just drastically increase.

Pre-Rut

In the summer leading up to the rut, most bucks spend their time together in small groups of three or more.

Whitetail Deer Pre-Rut

Image credit: ctigroup.us

You can find them feeding together. However, as the weather grows colder, the velvet begins to peel off their antlers due to a surge in their hormones. They become irritated with each other and begin to spar each other. Eventually, they leave their groups in seek of solitude and a mate.

Tips for the Pre Rut Season:

  • Even though it isn’t the peak of the rut yet, rattle calls are still very useful in the beginning of the season. Bucks are sparring at this time. You don’t want to shake as if the deer are in the middle of an MMA fight. Instead, opt for a lighter call, as if they were testing each other.
  • Once the bucks leave their bachelor groups, they go off to find their home area. They make their rub line, which is a series of rubs, on the trees around the area they pick for their home. A group of rubs together, not in a line, is their main home area. Make sure not to hunt a perimeter for too long.
  • You want to hunt primary scrapes that have a licking branch, overhanging limb for rubbing and other signs. This area is where you want to hunt because you can find bucks of all ages at these scrapes. Make sure it is fresh, with not many leaves in the spot and a musky odor.
  • When you find a hot primary scrape, bring a deer call. This area is frequented by a great number of deer. They leave urine and come to check out the other scents. You may catch a huge buck in this area. Read our popular article on how to select the top deer call to help you hunt.

Peak Rut Phase

Bucks are highly active during the peak of the rut. It is at this time that deer are estrous, meaning they will stand for mating instead of running away. Does stand around, and bucks are typically close by, waiting for the doe to become receptive.

Whitetail Deer Peak Rut Phase

Image credit: ctigroup.us

Then, the couple goes to bed for a day or two before parting ways. The buck is then off to find another receptive doe. Bucks are busy fellows during the rut.

Tips for the Peak of the Rut Phase:

  • While hunting in the buck’s home sounds like a great idea, it isn’t. A buck may not return for a few days, while they search for a receptive doe. You need to hunt for the does because that is where the bucks will be.
  • Look for shortcut areas. The bucks are with one doe for eight to 24 hours and then they are off to find another. The constant is coming and going create shortcut
  • If there is any time you want to use scents, decoys, and calls, it is at the peak of the rut. The peak lasts between 10 days and two weeks, a relatively short period. This is the time to draw those big bucks in!
  • Scent free is important during the peak. If you are using a call, you need to be as scent free as possible. More than likely, the deer will head downwind and check for a smell as they are moving towards the sound.
  • To increase your chances of landing a buck, soak a rag in doe estrous. Then, make a trail that leads directly to your stand. During the peak, a buck can’t let this type of opportunity pass them by.
  • Even if the moon and the weather aren’t the ideal prime time to hunt, the desire to breed will drive bucks to move in this time frame. So, even if you think that it isn’t a good opportunity to go hunt, go out!
  • Mature bucks move during all times of the rut. Numerous hunters have successful hunts in the midday. Stay out as long as you are able.
  • Are you looking to land the biggest buck? Then, you are going to need to let the smaller ones go first. Mature bucks are smart. They hang back and watch the younger deer. They read body language and make sure the area is safe before venturing out. You have to let some go before you land a great one.

Post Rut

Overnight, the crazed activity of the rut comes to a halt. Large bucks tend to slink away in the dense forest, and hunters have trouble finding any fresh sign of deer.

Whitetail Deer Post Rut

It is around this time that frustrated hunters want to give it up for the season, thinking they are out of luck.

Tips for the Post Rut Phase:

  • Don’t put away your gear once the rut has ended! Bucks tend to head off to secluded areas, especially if there were a lot of hunters during the rut. However, they don’t travel dozens of miles away. They are likely in the same vicinity but in a more secluded spot.
  • About a month after the peak, there is a smaller, estrous week. This period is when the does that weren’t bred come back to stand.
  • Use the same techniques that you did during the peak of the season. Bucks still are out looking for food and mates. Feeding is crucial during the post-rut
  • I know hunkering down in our cozy homes on really cold days sounds appealing.

However, inclement weather is the best time to score your big buck during the post phase.

If it is frigid outside, deer have to eat every four hours to survive. You are more likely to find a deer out feeding, and you don’t need to eat out super early to bag one!

Finding The Right Areas to Hunt Whitetail Deer

Finding the right area to hunt is going to lead to a successful hunting year. I mentioned a few tips above, such as finding their bedding area and using primary scrapes to find an active area.

The Right Areas to Hunt Whitetail Deer

Here are some tips to help you land your big buck.

  • Even though a deer changes areas throughout the year, a mature buck stays within an 110-acre radius, on average. In the summer and spring, they are on the hunt for a quality water and food source. Then, in the fall and winter, the drive to breed causes them to be near does and their feeding and bedding area. Once the rut seasons are over, bucks find the food sources again.
  • You should scout before the season opens. Check out rivers and creeks because they are areas that deer tend to travel. The area between two hills is another area deer will move Thickets give deer coverage and bedding.
  • Trail cameras are a great investment but don’t just focus on baiting stations and food plots. Instead, use them to find where the deer enter and leave the area.
  • Once you find a great hunting area, hunt the outer edges. This area has less human interaction. Also, you can avoid the wind better when shooting the perimeter by keeping your face in the wind.
  • Create a bottleneck by cutting trees. The goal is to build one or two trails in and out of the area. Make sure these trails pass in front of your stand, which should be downwind.
  • Bucks want to feel safe. You don’t want to make the bucks feel unpressured. Once you create your two trails leading to and from the area and add a food source, you are creating a great hunting spot. If they don’t feel safe, the deer aren’t going to come.

Important Tips to Remember

  • Removing human odor is essential to avoid spooking the deer. Before heading out, shower in a scent free soap. You should store your hunting gear in a bag with leaves and dirt, allowing the natural scents to take over.
  • Bring an odor eliminator with you out to your stand.
  • The best time to clear shooting lanes in your hunting area is the summer. Older deer associate the smell of freshly cut timber to humans, causing them to avoid the area.
  • If what you are doing isn’t working, change plans and tactics. You may have to more areas, but it is better than doing the same thing over and over again.
  • Always use the right call for the correct season. During the pre-rut season, you want a dominant buck grunt. During the peak of the rut, you want a doe in estrous bleat.
  • Blaze, hunter orange is for safe and necessary to wear. Remember that a deer can see you if you are wearing all orange. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is a lot of evidence that supports that they can see color.
  • Deer can hear you from a quarter of a mile away, especially if you are clumsy. Once they hear you making noise, it takes almost two hours for them to want to come back to that same area. Stay quiet.
  • Rubber boots don’t hold odors. Deer can smell your trail in and out and determine when you arrived. Their scent lets them find out if you are a threat. Spray doe urine or a scent block on your boots when walking in.

Don’t forget to check out our expert review of the best deer rifle to use for your hunting expedition.

Let The Games Begin

Now that you have all information needed, you can get out there and be on the lookout for that white tail. Did we miss anything?

Man with Whitetail Deer

Feel free to tell us in the comment section bellow, we always want to give as much information as possible and having all the details matters a lot.

Before hunting season begins, make sure you read more tips on how to improve your whitetail deer hunting for a more rewarding experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

  • Philip Morgan

    Some great advice, Shawn, thank you! Tracking Whitetail and getting close enough to make that all important shot is one thing, however, I often find that too many hunters make the same mistakes before heading out into the woods. In my experience, the one thing that hurts most whitetail hunters is poor shots. Far too many hunters are reluctant to spend any time at the range, and when deer season is finally upon them, they head out into the woods and fail to make the shot because they’ve not practised beforehand. Get yourselves to the range guys and practice, practice and practice some more!

    • Shawn Harrison

      Thanks, Philip. It is very important to create a deadly strategy than firing at will. Whitetails are quite sensitive, but you have to get close enough to fire that important shot. Practice, it does take a while, but you will definitely get there when you do it often.

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