Hunting deer is one of the best practices a survivalist can learn. In a survival scenario, venison is a source of lean protein and fats, it can be cooked similar to other meats, and it makes some of the best jerky you will ever eat.
So, if you live in an area abundant with deer, it is a good idea to learn tips that will make hunting deer in the wilderness easier. Learning how to hunt deer comes with a lot of hands on experience, but there are some deer hunting tips that can make finding the game simpler.
In North America, there are three main types of deer you will find:
- The white tail deer – lives East of the Rocky Mountains;
- The mule deer – lives to the West of the Rocky Mountains.
- The black tail deer – lives from the West coast of Northern California up to the Southeastern side of Alaska.
Preparing for Deer Hunt
You are going to need to be prepared for hunting. Having a plan set in place is a good idea when you trek off into the wilderness. Decide where you are going to hunt and let someone else know. This way, if you get lost, they will have a general idea where to start looking.
Knowing when to hunt is also important because certain seasons are better than other for game. Here are the most important things to remember about when to hunt deer:
- Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. A few hours in the early morning or in the evening are the best time to go hunting.
- The moon phases influence the deer. During the new moon, deer move more in them morning. During the mid-season moon phase, they are more active in the evening.
You also need some supplies. Besides your weapon of choice (which we will discuss further on down), carrying the right gear with you will make hunting easier. Whether you opt for a rifle or bow, make sure you bring extra bullets or arrows. The worse thing is to run out whenever you get there!
Bringing a knife is also important. You are going to need a knife to gut the deer. If you have extra gear, like a small first aid kit, a rope, camouflage clothing or cover, or more, a backpack will be a good investment. I like to bring a good pair of binoculars with me as well, so I can spot the deer as they come.
Gun or Bow Hunting
You can hunt deer with either a gun or a bow. This is going to matter on your preference, but bow hunting has some advantages to consider. However, a good idea is to practice with both, so no matter the scenario, you are prepared. Preparation is the name of the survival game.
Let’s look at bow hunting for a moment. There are some clear reasons why bow hunting is a great way to hunt and it deserves your consideration, especially for a survival scenario.
- Bows can be made out of any hardwood material. If you are in the wilderness and run out of bullets, you are in a tough spot. Unless you have an ammunition maker nearby, there is little you can do to fix this problem.
- Certain bows, referred to as take down bows, can come apart in 3 pieces. This makes them extremely portable and they would fit right into your bug out bag. Even if you opt for a compound or traditional bow, the weight wouldn’t be overwhelming.
- Bows are silent. This is one of the best reasons to shoot with a bow. Unlike a rifle, a bow isn’t going to disturb and scare other game away from the area. You have the possibility of getting more than one animal when using a bow.
Using a bow and arrow does take some major practice. However, they are a great option for survival deer hunting and shouldn’t be discounted. A rifle is the go to weapon of choice. You are more likely to take down a deer with the first shot using a rifle. Unless you have practiced well, your accuracy will be more precise with a rifle as well.
Finding Deer Trails
Deer are creatures of habit. Unless they are pushed out of their typical area, they see no reason to leave their home territory. This makes hunting deer easier for us. If you have time and aren’t in a survival scenario, a wise idea would be to set up a trail camera.
A trail camera, placed in an area suspected to have deer, can give valuable insight to the hunter about the game in the area. No one wants to get up before dawn to hunt and never catch sight of even a tail of a deer. However, in a survival scenario, you may not have the opportunity to set one up.
If your plan is to bug in during a crisis, I would suggest doing a thorough research of the area. The woods surrounding you will be your grocery store. Unless you are thrown into the situation without any preparation, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be observing game in the area each month.
If you are thrown into a survival situation, the first thing you need to do is find deer trails or areas that deer may hide. As I said before, deer love to frequent the same areas over and over again. They will have worn down trails they follow throughout the week. Finding a deer trail is going to give you an advantage at finding game.
- Look for Funnels: What are deer funnels? They are just longer sections of trail, typically near a physical barrier such as water, fallen trees, banks and other terrain features.
- Find a Rub Line: Mature bucks like to rub their antlers along the side of trees. This can indicate a used deer trail. You can generally find them on trees at least 3 inches in diameter. Look for a tree that has bark removed on one side, which will be the side he is walking.
- Staging Areas: Deer are naturally skittish. They run at the slightest noise and are very cautious about entering wide, open areas. Rarely will they march into a field without first scoping out the area for safety. Typically, they will find a cover of brush a few yards outside of the field. Here, you may find disturbed leaves, nibbled stems, tracks, droppings or rub signs.
- Deer Droppings: If you are experienced at reading deer droppings, they can give an insight into the game. Here are some things you may want to know.
- If you find wet, shiny droppings, it means they are fresh. They likely were made 6-12 hours ago; you are on the right track!
- When you find dried out and hard droppings, the deer has probably moved onto another area.
- The larger the pile is the larger the animal. Unless you are looking for a huge buck, this isn’t a huge concern. Does and fawns tend to leave much smaller piles.
- Fresh droppings in heavy brush mean you probably have stumbled upon a bedding site. This can be a reaffirming site; you are likely in a good area for game.
- The texture of the droppings can also indicate what the deer is eating. For example, firmer pellets mean the deer has eaten twigs and bushes. Softer pellets mean the deer was eating the same twigs and bushes, but probably some clover or alfalfa in a field. Loose droppings mean there may be a fruit source nearby. If you can find the source of their food, there is a chance you will find the game as well.
How to Follow A Blood Trail
Not every shot will hit your mark perfectly. Sometimes, you shoot and don’t kill. Learning how to follow a blood trail is beneficial because losing the deer when it is wounded is a loss of a number of meals as well as a loss of a life.
The chances are high the deer will bleed out somewhere down the trail unless you just grazed it.
- Watch the Hit: You have to watch the impact and the deer’s reaction. A hit in the vital organ area should mean you only have to track for an hour at most. However, if you hit the deer in the leg, or too far back or high, you may be in for a few hours of tracking. Go to where you last saw the animal, if it began to run. Look on the ground for blood. If you can’t find any, look for tracks or scuff marks.
- The Run: After a deer is hit, they tend to panic and make a quick dash for cover. Follow their lead and check for blood. It is important to note where the blood is so you can determine which side of the deer the blood is coming.
- Backtracking: If you were walking along with a good blood trail, it may come to an end. This can be baffling. If you notice there is blood on both sides of the trail, the deer backtracked. You need to turn around and find where the deer left the trail.
- No More Blood: So, you lost your trail of blood and you are bummed. Don’t panic. There is a chance you can still find your deer. Mark the last drop of blood and begin to circle. Circle wider. Walk up and down a trail, circle back to the drop of blood, walk up another trail and circle back down to the last drop. Hopefully, you will find the deer bedded down and dead.
Pay attention to the color of the blood on your trail. It can help you determine the location of your hit and what chances you have of finding the deer while tracking.
- If the blood is pink and frothy, the hit was a lung shot. It is a lethal shot, so your tracking won’t be too long.
- If the blood is bright red, your shot may have hit the heart or large tissue area with lots of blood vessels. With this, the amount of blood is more telling. The more you find, the better chances it was a lethal shot.
- If the blood is burgundy-colored, you may have hit the deer in the liver or kidneys. This is a lethal shot, but the deer won’t go down immediately.
- If you see any greenish tint to the blood, it probably hit the stomach.
Understanding how to track a blood trail is very important for survival hunting. There is a good chance, if you spend enough time hunting, you will have to follow a blood trail. Your chances increase if you are bow hunting. Don’t worry; with practice, you will learn how to track a deer.
Field Dressing A Deer
Once you have made your kill, it is crucial to gut the deer (also called field dressing). It helps preserve the meat as you don’t want to take any chances that the meat may spoil.
Remember, if the deer is not dead, shoot it again. Deer, in a scared frenzy, can hurt you, so try not to get too close.
- Wearing gloves is a wise idea. It prevents the spread of disease.
- Flip the deer over on its back. From this angle, you can easily find the sternum. Using your knife, cut from sternum to crotch. You don’t want to cut too deep; all you want to cut is the hide and the membrane behind it. Any deeper and you could cut into an organ or the stomach.
- Beginning at the crotch, start to pull out the guts. You will need to cut the membranes that link all the innards together and to the spine. Take your time; you don’t want to make any mistakes. When you reach the diaphragm, don’t be surprised if there is some blood spilling. This is normal.
- Once you find the last of the membranes, cut through them and remove all of the intestines.
- Next, using either a small zip saw or sawing with your knife, cut the center of the pelvic bone. You want to find and pull the colon out.
- If you have a cooler or collection bag, you can take out the heart, lungs, liver and anus. However, you can also remove them later if it is easier for you.
- This is when that rope is going to come in handy. Attach it to the deer so you can drag it back to your vehicle. Pulling the front legs are the easiest method. If you have a hunting partner, you can carry it between you.
Gutting a deer for the very first time can be nerve-wrecking and intimidating. Try to remember these steps. Write them down if necessary. Once the deer is home, hanging the deer up is a good idea. You will need to skin the deer and remove all of the meat. Take your time. After all your work to get the deer, take the time to do this to best of your abilities.
Tips for How to Hunt Deer
Even experienced hunters need some refreshers on tips. If you haven’t spent much time in the woods, here are some practical tips you should know before setting off on your hunt for venison.
- Stop at Loud Noises: We may not think a twig snapping is a big deal, but the deer hear and remember the sound. If you happen to make a sound, stop for a few moments and observe. You may notice a deer off in the distance, staring in your direction. Don’t move; wait until the deer goes back to grazing.
- Observe and Go Slow: Unless you have a deadline, there is no reason to rush. You are likely to miss signs of a rub trail or droppings when you hurry. There have to be times you stop and wait to see if game stumbles by.
- Sweep Away Clutter: If you opt to stop and stay in one place for some time, move away the leaves and twigs from that location. This lets you move and get to the best angle for shooting without alerting the deer to your presence.
- Wash Away Human Odor: Deer have a great sense of smell, and they can smell a human coming. Don’t use anything heavy scented on your hunting gear. You should store your gear in a bag with leaves and twigs to keep the scent very natural. Here’s our review of the best deer attractants – read our article to find out more.
- Concealment: Survival scenarios don’t always mean you will have the option for a tree stand or blind. If you have the chance to make one beforehand, it would be helpful. Otherwise, find ways to naturally conceal yourself when hunting game.
- Read the Wind: Using the wind to your advantage is a wise idea. The wind should be moving the scent away from the game, not in the direction you are hunting. If it moves, don’t be afraid to change position. A deer will smell you before you even catch sight of her.
- Don’t Let Weather Stop You: In fact, rain can play to your advantage. It washes away some of your scent and muffles the sound of your walking. Plus, plenty of hunters avoid the trek for meat while it is cold and rainy.
- Use a Deer Call: Calls are meant to lure in the game. A call that mimics a doe’s bleat will attract a buck. If you are close to the rut, a grunt call will bring in bucks looking for a challenge. Find out how you can use a deer call to lure your animal for a successful hunt.
Hunting deer takes time, patience, and plenty of experience. I hope these tips have been helpful for you. In a survival scenario, knowing how to hunt in the wilderness is a great advantage.
You have to make sure you are prepared and have a set plan for your hunt. Finding a good location, by following deer trails and signs, is one of the most important steps to deer hunting. Once you make your shot, you have to know how to follow a blood trail if the animal didn’t die immediately.
It is crucial you field dress the deer so your meat stays as fresh as possible. Lastly, there are some great tips to remember, like using the wind to your advantage and using a deer calls to lure in more animals. For more tips on how to improve your deer hunting skills, check out our article on this topic.
Do you have any awesome deer hunting tips? We love to know what you tell beginners or those who are preparing for a survival scenario. Let us know in the comment section!