Deer Hunting Basics


White-tailed deer find all their life needs closely associated with the forest. As with many animals, they are known as creatures of the “edge” with a love for green plants, waste grain, and tender shoots that they often find in the edge of cultivated fields. Therefore, in early season, the knowing hunter looks for heavily used trails within 50 yards or so of the edge. Late in the season,, however, it is the forested land that provides their hiding cover, much of their food, and space for movement. Now you may want to move your stand to more secluded areas.

If you choose to hunt on the side of a ridgeline within the forest, look for trails that lead to the lowest point on the ridge. Deer moving over a ridge will typically look for that path that costs them the least amount of energy to get from one side to the other.

Deer also prefer a forest that is undergoing secondary succession to a forest that is mature. Shrubs, bushes and plants such as poison ivy provide both food sources and hiding cover. This regenerating forest is usually very thick, making it difficult for other animals to find the deer; however the deer travel through it with ease. If hunting in such an area, a tree stand near a small clearing or on power line right-of-way might be productive.

Waterways offer another place to ambush deer. One person relates that deer use streams and valley floors like humans use interstates… to get somewhere fast. The biological need for water can be satisfied in many ways. Early in the season, daily trips to ponds or streams may be expected but late in the season a small hidden spring will give a big buck all the water he will need.

Deer normally stay within a home range of approximately 1 square mile or 640 acres. However, during the rut, all bets are off. During this breeding season, bucks travel great distances to find does that are ready to breed, and may be found several miles from where they were seen yesterday. It is the time of year when they simply don’t care if hunters or cars are in the vicinity, they are only intent on breeding.


Prepare and Scout

Hunters should plan several days of scouting before season starts. This is the time to discover numbers and quality of the deer in your hunting area. Heavily used trails will indicate deer numbers while the rubs show where big bucks are active. While small bucks will rub on shrubs and small trees, big bucks use larger woody material. The rub of a big buck will also be higher in the tree.

Several Stands, Early as Possible

While you are in the woods scouting, it is a good time to set up several stands or repair those from last year. You need plenty as daily conditions change and a simple wind change may make one stand unproductive. If boards need to be replaced, doing it early will not disturb the deer as much as a day or two before season. One hunter related that he attracted a nice buck to his stand during season by sawing branches to improve his field of shooting. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get an arrow loaded onto his saw.

Sight-in and Practice

Every year and several times a year, hunters will first adjust the sights on their bow or fi rearm then continue to practice. Sights sometimes get bumped during transport. If you miss what you thought was an easy shot, a trip back to the target range is preferable to more misses.

Target Area of Shot Placement

When shooting at deer, the hunter should plan for a quick and effective kill. He or she should look for openings through the vegetation where they can place a shot into heart-lung area. The heart-lung area of a deer is reasonably large (10 inch circle). A shot here will cause massive bleeding, and the shock of the bullet will normally drop the animal within a few feet. There are other vital areas on deer, but patience will normally give you a shot at the larger area. If a killing shot is not available, enjoy watching the deer escape unharmed.

Scent Control, Wind, Entrance Path

Deer have a very sensitive sense of smell and deer hunters practice three methods of scent control in the woods. First, bathing and laundry soap is available that does not have a scent identified with humans. Many hunters are careful about deodorant and some brands may repel deer. Finally, there are bottles of scent from animals that will mask the human smells, and in some cases attract deer.

Plan all day Hunt,

Bring Food and Water Deer hunters report seeing deer throughout the day. Especially in peak hunting periods, other hunters may move the deer anytime. Therefore, bring plenty of water and enough food to be comfortable. Again remember the senses of deer as you plan for your food, as smells or the sound of tearing a container may alert the deer.

Know Tagging and Reporting Procedures.

As in all hunting, the hunter is responsible for knowing the appropriate rules and regulations. All information is available on-line or in a hunting guide that will be sent to you for asking. Reporting all kills provides the most accurate information for the Department. With this information, biologists can continue to provide a quality deer hunting experience for all hunters.


There are many books, videos and websites on how to field dress a deer. One example is the Missouri website is at this link http: // Rather than repeating those procedures, a few additional hints are offered:

  • Relax, calm down, and take your time. Do not start field dressing until the animal is still.
  • Come prepared with a sharp knife and rubber gloves.
  • Many hunters cut themselves during the field dressing process; wait until you are calm, and be careful.
  • Be careful not to penetrate the intestines as you remove organs.
  • If you think you would like to have the head mounted, make sure you do not cut the skin forward of the ribs.
  • In early seasons, either have ice available or purchase ice quickly to place in the body cavity and cool the animal from the inside.
  • In warmer weather, you will want to skin and quarter your deer quickly so it can be cooled in a cooler.
  • In colder weather, skinning the animal will be much easier if done quickly rather than after the animal is cold.

When cutting up the meat, three hints are offered. First, remove all hair, fat, muscle sheath, and bruised meat that you can. Hair clings to the meat and can be removed with a damp cloth followed my careful search. Much of the taste that people associate with deer is held in the fat. Fat and sinew can be sliced away from the muscles with the aid of a sharp fillet knife. That meat around a wound will be bruised from impact. Bloodshot tissue may have a strong taste or not be visually appealing when served. Next, rather than cut into individual steaks or chops, cut chunks that will provide enough meat for your intended meal. For instance, if you normally feed four people, cut the steaks in 4 inch pieces. By leaving it in larger chunks, there will be less freezer burn. When you are ready to wrap and freeze, plan to double wrap to reduce freezer burn. First wrap in clear plastic wrap that is sealed as you wrap. Next, cut pieces of freezer wrap and place the meat at one corner. Roll the meat and freezer wrap together from one corner to the other, folding in the edges. The package can now be sealed with one small piece of tape.


Venison Filets

(Lonnie Nelson on the suggestion from a friend in Tennessee)

This recipe works best with meat from the back strap of a deer, but my wife will not let me cook any deer steak any other way.
  • 4 Venison Steaks
  • 4 Slices of
  • Bacon
  • Worchetershire steak sauce
  • Toothpicks

Cut steaks 3⁄4 to 1 inch thick. Wrap in bacon (just like a filet mignon) and douse with 6 shakes of Worchestershire steak sauce. Place all steaks on a plate, cover with aluminum foil and marinate for 4-6 hours. When ready for dinner, grill them on the barbecue just like you would cook any other steak. I prefer medium rare, and cook them no more than 5 - 6 minutes over the coals per side.

Venison Pot Roast

Art Boebinger, retired employee, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
  • 1 Venison roast (up to 5 lbs.)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 Celery Stalk, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped
  • Garlic clove
  • Flour Salt
  • 1 12-Ounce can beef stock Pepper
  • 4 to 5 Potatoes (optional)

Rub the roast with cut garlic clove and lightly salt and pepper the meat. Dredge in salted and peppered flour. Put two tablespoons of oil in a cast-iron dutch oven and heat over a medium high burner. Brown meat on all sides but do not allow it to scorch. When meat is half- browned, add celery, onion and carrots. Add beef stock and an equal amount of water and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the boiling point is reached, tightly cover. The roast can simmer at a low temperature on top of the stove, or it may be transferred to a 300 degree oven. In either case, plan to cook it slowly for two to three hours. Turn meat occasionally and add stock or water if needed. During the last hour, potatoes may be added to the pot to cook in the roasting juices. Serve with potatoes and red cabbage.