As a new deer hunter you’ll want to start preparing now for the 2014 firearms deer-hunting season.
A hunter safety course is always the first step for a new deer hunter because a safe, ethical deer hunt is the number one goal. If you haven’t completed hunter education yet, we would suggest HunterEdCourse.com an IHEA-USA compliant online hunter safety course that is accepted in all 50 states and is only $13. Online hunter education is a convenient means for a new deer hunter to meet the state’s hunter education requirement.
Here are 10 steps for the new deer hunter to be prepared for deer season opening day
1. Buy Ammunition Now
For several years now, ammo has been scarce. Many popular hunting cartridges may be difficult to obtain. As a new deer hunter, visit your favorite gun store or big box store that sells ammo well in advance of your deer hunt to be sure you can purchase the proper ammunition. And, remembering from your hunter safety course, be sure to match the proper ammunition to the rifle.
If the store has the ammunition your deer rifle requires, buy enough for this season. You will need it for practice and for the hunt. If your local store doesn’t have what you need, go online and order your ammo from a vendor on the Internet.
If you wait until the last minute, you might wake up on opening day with a gun and no ammo for the hunt. No new deer hunter wants to be sitting with an empty rifle in the treestand.
2. Identify Hunting Property
Most new deer hunters have two options: private land and public land.
As a new deer hunter if you have access to your own property you are one very lucky hunter. Enjoy it.
Some hunters think that hunting on public land is a bad choice. Don’t fall for that myth.
Public land is there for use by hunters when so designated. There are thousands of acres available, and the deer roam free across private and public lands.
Whichever kind of parcel you prefer to hunt on, get up-to-date topographic maps. The best source for studying the topography is the Internet, using Google Maps or Bing Maps. Their snapshots from satellites may be a year old or so, but they provide the best bird’s eye view of the topography, including location of any homes or outbuildings.
Also, go to state offices and local town halls to obtain maps of property boundaries. Know where you are allowed to hunt and where a conservation officer will classify your hunting venture as trespassing.
3. Get Landowner Permission
Landowners can be incredibly generous to hunters, especially if there is a benefit for them and their land. Don’t wait until the week before opening day to knock on the doors of landowners to ask permission to hunt on their land. You really should start this effort in the summertime when the landowner is busy with planting or cattle raising chores. There are fences to mend, crops to harvest, gates to build or restore and outbuildings that may need siding and roofing shingles restored.
Make offers to work. Look sharp. Dress for the occasion. Make the best presentation possible.
If you plan to hunt with a partner or two, make sure to coordinate the visit to the landowner so that all of you are present for the request.
Expect to be turned down, especially on the first attempt. Take a good reading on the landowner’s denial. There might be an opportunity next year. Ask before leaving if that could be a possibility. Be nice; be friendly. You are asking for something that is precious.
Hone your personal relations skills with pursuing permission from landowners. Get to know other hunters in the general area. Find out what works for them; using that new technique might work for you, too. Smile and be courteous no matter what the result.
4. Read Hunting Laws and Regulations
Hunting laws and regulations vary from state to state. There may be local regulations also that determine rules for hunting or prohibiting hunting. Get the most up-to-date information on the state’s website.
Realize that the hunting guide the state publishes is only a summary of the actual laws and regulations. To be sure of what you may legally do in the pursuit of game, read the statutes thoroughly.
Be sure to understand your state’s hunter education requirements. Most states require a new deer hunter to complete a hunter safety course. Be sure to understand whether you need to carry your hunter education card while you hunt, or just have it available to buy your hunting license. Consult your local state regulations to understand the hunter education requirement.
5. Buy Your Hunting License and Tags
You gotta pay to play – and that’s a good thing.
Hunting license sales support wildlife conservation in the United States of America. Every hunter recognizes the importance of obtaining the hunting license and tags for the game they want to hunt.
These purchases, along with dollars for guns and ammo, not only give the hunter legal status to pursue the game, but also provide dollars from the Pittman-Robertson excise tax that was established in 1937 to ensure that the North American Hunting Tradition continues for future generations. Refer to your hunter safety course for details.
6. Plan Your Hunts
Start now to open up the boxes and bags of your new deer-hunting gear or the gear that you are borrowing.
Shake it all out. Hang clothing outside for a fresh air treatment. You might want to drag your outer clothing in the leaves where you plan to hunt so that it absorbs local odors, then hang it up and bag it in an odor free container.
Or, if you prefer, use the odor free clothing. Check out your supply of all of the tools you use, including binoculars, GPS, compass, boots, socks, caps, gloves, backpack, first aid kit, game calls and scents, canteen or thermos, warm, cold and wet weather attire. Be sure all batteries are fresh.
A safe and successful hunt as a new deer hunter learns in hunter education, requires a hunt plan, gun, ammo, first aid kit, appropriate clothing and good sense.
7. Scout for Sign
If you know where you will hunt, get into the area now, and with as much care as possible start looking for sign.
Know what the deer will have available this year for food during the hunting season. Their favorite food is acorns from the white oak. However, not every year produces a bumper crop of white oak acorns.
Find out where the deer bed down, their runs and trails between locations, what food they have available and where they get their food and where they frolic. Look for clipped grasses, shrubs and tender shoots of plants, scrapes, rubs, tracks and droppings. Try to make sense out of the whole area you explore. Ask: What do the deer do when they are here?
Visit the area at different times of the day to monitor the prevailing wind direction and recognize that as the late afternoon and evening times wear on the temperature may cool down, causing wind to increase in speed and change direction. You do not want to be in a position upwind of the deer when hunting.
And recognize that the deer may adjust their travel routes based on changes in wind direction, food sources and the rut. The deer may move in a fast, wild fashion when the rut is on and where the food is plentiful, especially the does – followed by the bucks.
8. Set Up Trail Cameras
“Eyes”on the hunting area that record what’s happening when you are not there can help make a successful rifle deer-hunting season. Recognize that this entails additional expense and also requires more time for locating the camera position, mounting the camera, and monitoring the recordings by the trail camera.
One camera might not be sufficient in a given location. Or, you might want to mount different cameras at each of your favorite spots. Not all cameras are created equal, and most of the trail cameras on the market have issues.
9. Set Up and Inspect Your Treestand
A treestand is a useful tool for harvesting deer. There is a variety of treestands for your selection: hang-ons, climbers, ladder stands and tripods. We do NOT recommend building your own treestand and we very sternly advise that you NOT use a treestand that someone else set up, especially a homemade stand.
Make certain that your treestand is current and has the approval of TMA (Treestand Manufacturers Association). Never use a treestand that belongs to another hunter.
Always wear a full body harness when using a treestand, use a haul line to bring up your unloaded firearm, and maintain three points of contact whenever climbing up and down. Follow the instructions from the treestand manufacturer for correct use. Treestand falls may result in serious injury and death.
Practice using your treestand at home on a tree in the backyard and begin with it mounted at two to three feet.
10. Sight In Rifle
The rifle is your chosen tool for hunting deer. Know your rifle. Just because it was right on target last year does not mean that when you take it out of storage for this season it is properly sighted in.
Take time to go to a shooting range to practice well ahead of opening day. Whether you’re using open or telescopic sights: start out the day at the range as though you had a brand new rifle.
It is suggested that the new deer hunter refer back to their hunter safety course for details on how to sight in their deer-hunting rifle.
Take at least three shots at each target. Check the hits for tight groups within an area the size of a small dinner plate. Determine what you prefer as the zero and adjust the sight system for consistent, accurate hits dead center at your preferred zero. Remember that the deer’s vitals will not have a neat red circle for sight placement. Know the anatomy of the deer and, also, be patient, wait for the best shot – the quartering away angle. Consult your hunter education course for specifics.
And, be safe…
Remember the fundamental firearm safety rules taught in your hunter safety course – ACTT.
- Assume all guns are loaded
- Control the muzzle: keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.
- Trigger: keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
- Target: be sure of your target and what lies beyond.
Memorize these firearm safety rules and insist that everyone who hunts with you observes these rules too.
Also, wear hunter orange clothing as required by law. You do not want to be mistaken for game by another hunter.
Enjoy the hunt!
About the Author
Dr. Charles Bruckerhoff is the Hunter Education Administrator for the state of Connecticut and a recognized leader in hunter education curriculum development. Dr. Bruckerhoff is a member of the International Hunter Education Association hunter education standards committee and participated in establishing the new hunter education training standards taught in every US state and Canadian province.
About Hunter Ed Course
Hunter Ed Course is committed to providing a more affordable online hunter safety course than is currently on the market in order to reduce training as a barrier to access for those wanting to start hunting.
Offered at only $13 through the website www.HunterEdCourse.com, access is provided to online hunter education for youth and adults in a medium they are comfortable with and at a price that is affordable and within reach.