Okay, so you found the Outdoor Network and binged watched the latest hunting show, giving you hunting fever! Whitetail season is just around the corner; but, now what? Where do you even start? Stepping into the hunting world for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. Good news, you’re not the first person to “start hunting.” Many of us didn’t come from hunting families or the passion got lost somewhere between Great Grandpa and you. Luckily, the sources of information this day in age are endless. Here’s a short guide to get you from the couch to putting meat in your freezer!
Off To A Great Start…
There’s a few hills you have to climb before you can get into the woods! First step on your journey is taking your hunter’s safety course. Many states have partnered with the NRA online interactive course, making it convenient. Now, you’ll have a foundation or get a good reminder on the paramount of safety. Becoming aquatinted with your States hunting seasons and regulations will follow this step. The most popular Whitetail seasons are Archery, Muzzleloader and Rifle. Depending on where you are hunting special Shotgun zones may offer another option. So, your selected tool will weigh heavily on where and how you hunt. Now, I bet you already feel the distance between you and that whitetail growing; but, it’s closer than you think!
It’s all in the prep work!
We could get caught up all day discussing selecting the right camo pattern, comparing brands and what gear you should have. This article is here to help you with the basics. Its key when selecting your gear to pay attention to the climate you’ll be hunting in! You don’t want to get caught in early season gear when hunting the winters of the Northern states! The basic rule of thumb is you want to break up your silhouette so whether you’re wearing hand-me-down camo or top of the line gear the whitetail won’t discriminate! However, how you prep that camo is a crucial piece in hunting success. Now, if you talk to the old-timers they all have tips and tricks on how they store their hunting clothes to make it smell more like the outdoors. Nonetheless, I’m just here to say make sure you’re washing your gear in non-scented laundry detergent. You can choose from a variety at your local sporting goods section. Sense of smell is the Whitetails biggest defense! You may have heard the expression “that doe blew me.” In most instances a deer will smell you before actually seeing you. It’s a crucial course of action to keep it out of contact with other human smelling items, as much as possible. You can spend money on fancy scent-controlled storage bags; but, I’ve have used just your basic vacuum storage bags you pick up at the department store and it works just fine. The point I’m getting to here is all the nice gear that makes the outdoors comfortable and easy will come with time; but, not something to hinder you from getting into the woods and seeing that Whitetail!
Practice makes perfect
Now that you have the laundry going, it’s time to sling some rounds or arrows down range! Have you ever heard the Marcus Luttrell quote, “You play like you practice and practice how you play.” The more it becomes muscle memory for you to draw that bow or weld your cheek against that stock, the less room for error there will be in the moment you have that whitetail in your crosshairs! Because contrary from what they show on those TV shows, misses and bad placed shots do happen!! Contrary to popular belief most hunters value ethical conduct and that goes for shot placement as well. Learning the anatomy will aid in selecting the best position for placing your shot.
Become a mini Biologist
Don’t be discouraged by the headline, I’m not making you go back to college. A misconception about hunters is that we’re all there for the killing. However, most of us are conservationist, self-taught biologist, continuing a Hunting Heritage or subsistent hunters. Regardless of where you find yourself on that spectrum or maybe it’s a combination, the common denominator here is the Whitetail. So as you’re going back to “school” here is a few things to take notes on.
- What is the herd size in your hunting area?
- What’s the Doe to Buck ratio?
- What’s their diet?
- How to age a deer?
- When does the Rut occur?
- What does a whitetail track look like?
- What is the difference between a rub and a scrape?
As you compile your information and the love for these animals grow, so will your success rate.
Boots on the Ground
We can talk all day about the biology of the whitetail. Though, the bulk of your knowledge is going to be from experience and getting out in the field. We got to ask ourselves, where are the deer? Maybe you’ve been watching that buck in the pasture every evening on your way home from work, or your buddy gave you a heads up on a couple does he seen. Depending on the land you’re hunting you may have had opportunity to preseason scout and put up trail cameras. Regardless, the basic habits of the Whitetail deer remain the same. They are either going to the food or going to bed down. Of course there’s going to be tons of variables whether you’re hunting mountainous areas, timbers or on the plains. If you’ve done your biology research you should have a good idea of where to start. Placing yourself between the bed and food is the best place to intercept the deer. If you’re hitting the season during rut, the doe’s behavior will remain the same. However, the bucks will be out searching for their next mate or establishing hierarchy within the herd. So the Buck’s behavior may be unpredictable; but, you’ll know where to intercept them if you find your doe routine.
Set Your Sights
The smell of coffee feels the air hours before sunrise. You are packed and ready to set out to your spot. The crisp morning air reminds you to grab an extra set of hot hands. It’s time, opening day has arrived! Whether it’s today or 20 “sits” from now your time will come. It’s good to plan on getting to your spot at least an hour and a half to two hours prior to movement time. Once you’re settled in, all the noise you made getting there and scent trail you left is soon forgotten, as nature resumes. Pay attention, listen and look! You’ll be surprised how quiet the Whitetail is. Set your crosshairs, its go time!
Bethany Beathard BIO
Bethany grew up in the Countryside of Oklahoma. She comes from a long line of hunters, fishers and trappers. Preserving and continuing hunting heritage is some she cherishes. She grew up always learning and loving things about the outdoors. Bethany is passionate about bringing women into the outdoors from all walks of life. She is military wife, homeschooling mom to 5 children and has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. She is biracial and wants to help people of other ethnicities be represented in the outdoors community. It’s hard to be it, if you can’t see it! She is involved in Oklahoma NWTF Hunting Heritage chapter and their Oklahoma Women in the Outdoors program. Recently, she has collaborated with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. She is a new member to Pheasants Forever and Women on the Wing. She currently holds a position as a Prostaff Member for ReelCamoGirl.