By: Robert Janis
Photos By: ATV Source
The Hunt -- Going After Whitetail Deer
Have you looked at the calendar lately? Itís
fall. Therefore, true outdoorsmen know that when
the leaves on the trees begin to turn color, it
is hunting season.
No doubt many of you who visit ATVSource.com
are advent hunters. You have years of experience
and look forward to this time of year like
football fans look forward to the kick off of
the National Football League season. You donít
need anyone to tell you how to hunt.
However, no doubt, there are a lot of you who
have never gone hunting before and would like
to. This article is for you. Be prepared to
learn how to select the best gun or bow to use
to bag your deer. Youíll learn how to shoot a
bow, how to track in the snow, and where on the
animal itís best to target a deer.
There are many hunting sites you can find on
the internet that provide you with all sorts of
answers to questions you may have on hunting
whitetail deer or any other big or small game. A
lot of the information in this story was found
at websites, particularly Bowhunting
Whitetails.com. Just do a Google search for
ďDeer HuntingĒ and you should find a lot of good
Preparing for the Hunt
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is
prepare. Thatís right. As for anything in life,
you have to make plans before you take the
plunge so that when you do take the plunge, it
is a lot more fun.
There are six weapons you can use when chasing
after whitetail deer. Thatís right. You are not
just limited to a rifle. You can use a crossbow
(in many states), a shotgun with slugs, a
muzzleloader, a handgun, and a bow also. Bow
hunters are the true masters of the art of
hunting. At least, they would like to make the
novice believe so.
As far as weapons that fire a projectile
other than an arrow, there are the following
Rifles are a commonly-used weapon and there
is not just one rifle which can be used. Like
many other items involved in hunting, there are
choices. Some of the major selections to
consider are a light end rifle, which includes a
.243 Winchester, 6 mm Remington, .250 Savage,
.257 Roberts, .260 Remington, or a 30-30
Winchester; a medium end rifle, which includes a
.270 Winchester, .280 Remington, 7x57 Mauser, 7
mm-08 Remington, or a .284 Winchester; a heavy
end rifle, which includes a .308 Winchester, a
30-06 Springfield, or a 7 mm Remington Magnum.
Even pistols can be considered like the light
weight .357 Magnum; the medium weight .41 Magnum
or .44 Remington Magnum; or the heavy end .454
Casull. Muzzleloading rifles to consider are the
light-end .45 Caliber; the medium .50 Caliber;
or the heavy-end 54 Caliber. Finally, there are
shotguns like the light-end 20 gauge; the medium
12 gauge; and the heavy-end 10 gauge.
Experts say that good selections for hunting
deer include the .44 Remington Magnum pistol,
the .50 caliber muzzleloader, and the 12 gauge
While selecting the proper rifle, pistol, or
shotgun to use, seek the advice of the
salesperson that is assisting you.
Selections of bows will also fall into a
light end, medium and heavy end. The light-end
choice is the 40 pound bow; the medium choices
are the 45, 50, or 55 pound bow; and the heavy
end is the 60 pound bow. Experts say that the
50-pound compound bow is a good choice to bag
Because bow hunters are so particular about
their skill, it is not unreasonable to realize
that there are hundreds of different bows from
which you can choose ; and that holds true for
the bow accessories, too. For example, there are
carbon shaft arrows to laser bow sights. Many
types are what experts call ďpassing fadsĒ and
many are based on cutting edge technology.
Moreover, your skill and comfort level are
very important to the process of selecting the
right bow to use. So, the process is a
subjective thing, not objective. However, the
experts have some ideas.
First, you donít have to buy the most
expensive bow and accessories on the shelf. Yet,
just like with any hobby, you arenít going to
buy the cheapest equipment either. The best
thing to do is get an idea of what to look for
by talking to bow hunters you know and respect.
If you donít know anyone, then go on- line and
find a bow hunting site like
http://www.whitetails.com and ask for
Before you go to the store to buy that bow,
you need to do some personal evaluation. In
order to select the proper bow, you need to know
your eye dominance, your length of draw, and the
draw weight that is most comfortable for you.
First, there are bow models that are designed
for left-handers and bows designed for right-
hand people. It is your eye dominance, not your
pitching hand that determines which
configuration to select. Just as you are
left-handed or right- handed, you are left eye
or right eye dominant. Usually, say the experts,
hand and eye dominance match. If you are
left-hander, you are probably left eye dominate,
etc. However, to be certain, you should perform
a little test. Point at a distant object with
both eyes open. Then close your left eye. If
your finger still appears to be pointing at the
object, you have a dominant right eye. If your
finger appears to shift to the side when you
close your left eye, then you have a dominant
left eye. Test your findings by pointing at a
distant object with both eyes open and then
close the right eye. As when you were looking at
the object with your left eye was open, if your
finger appears to be pointing at the object, you
have a dominant left eye.
Now, if your eye and hand dominance is left,
choose a left-handed bow. If your eye and hand
dominance is split, then eye dominance
dominates. Choose a bow that matches your eye
dominance. Left-handed bow for left eye
dominance; right-handed bow for right eye
Next, you need to determine the proper draw
length of the bow. This is the distance between
the bowstring and the grip when you hold the bow
at full draw. The length of your arms and the
width of your shoulders usually determine this
measurement. Regardless of what that is, you
will need help to make the measurement. Put an
arrow onto the bowstring and draw the bow. Then
have the measurer or assistant mark the arrow
directly above the pressure point of the handle.
The spot should be even with the arrow-rest hole
in the sight window. Once determined, add
1-3/4-inches to that figure to determine your
draw length for a compound bow. Simply put, if
the measurement is 28-inches, then you add
1-3/4-inches and come out with 29-3/4-inches.
This is your draw length.
Next, you need to be concerned with the draw
weight of the bow. This is the maximum amount of
weight necessary to draw the bow. This will help
you select a bow that you can easily draw.
However, it also is important in preventing
injuries. You could experience severe, chronic
shoulder and elbow injuries, including
tendonitis and bursitis by working a bow with a
too-heavy draw weight over a period of years. So
take the time to test out the bows you are
considering for selection. Experts say that
there is no exact formula to determine draw
weight. It varies in accordance to your body
strength and build. However, generally, you
should be able to draw your bow easily. If you
have to hold the bow over your head to obtain
leverage to draw it, then the draw weight is too
heavy. You should be able to hold the sights of
the bow on the target and draw the string
straight back without straining or shaking. When
determining the draw weight, keep in mind that
drawing a bow becomes more difficult as you get
more fatigued, or if you are cold. Experts say
that if you strain to draw the bow in practice,
then you probably canít draw it at all when in a
difficult hunting environment. Choose a bow with
a draw weight you can easily handle under any
After you have selected a bow, you need to
select the proper arrows to use with that bow.
Experts suggest that you consult with the person
who sold you the bow to determine the proper
Now you have your bow and arrows. But you
just canít say now you are ready to bag yourself
a deer. You need to go out and practice with the
bow first to assure that you have the proper
skills and mechanics.
Experts say that to have a consistent technique
and mechanics, you need to be relaxed. However,
you need to also be concerned with injury.
Working a bow over a period of years can lead to
the injuries as mentioned above. It is suggested
that before you take the first draw of the bow,
do some exercises like arm circles, shoulder
shrugs, isometrics, and stretching to warm up
your arm, shoulder, and back muscles.
As far as mechanics are concerned, there are
four things to focus on--stance, hand placement,
the draw, and the release.
When using your bow, start with your feet
spread apart at shoulder width and situate
yourself 90 degrees to the target. Then take a
half-step back with the front foot and pivot
slightly toward the target. This will produce a
mildly open stance. Your weight should be evenly
distributed on both feet, and you should stand
up straight with your head positioned directly
over the center of your body. Keep this stance
as you raise the bow to shoot. Donít lean
forward or backward when you pull the bow and
donít cock your head to the side to line up your
That said you donít need it to be set in
stone as far as your stance is concerned. Many
things can be happening prior to shooting your
bow in real hunting conditions that makes it
difficult, if not downright impossible, to keep
your stance perfectly as described. The key is
to be in a position that supports good upper
body stability. If you have to kneel, then put
both knees firmly on the ground instead of
kneeling on one knee while extending the other.
Use your practice time to use different postures
to determine which are most stable.
You can determine your best hand placement on
the bow by shooting arrows through paper at the
target range during practice sessions. Changing
hand placement between shots will change the
angle the arrow hits the paper and that affects
the size of the arrow groups. You want to
achieve tight groups so to assure consistent
accuracy, place your hand on the bow identically
for every shot. You want the hand placement to
be a low-wrist position. To achieve this, hold
your hand out at armís length as if pointing at
a distant object. Your hand is not held
vertically but is tilted to the side. Keep your
hand in this tilted position and place the bow
handle into your hand. You should feel pressure
of the bow handle on the meaty part of your
thumb. Try not to palm the bow. This will create
two pressure points--the thumb and the heel of
the hand. With your hand in that relaxed
position, your little finger will not hang in
front of the bow handle, but will fall to the
As you draw the bow, your hand should stay
totally relaxed; and the fingers should hang
loosely throughout the shot.
The hand that draws the bow, the string hand,
should remain in a naturally-rotated position
throughout the shot. To achieve this you may
want to consider using a wrist-strap or finger
held release. With a wrist strap release you
should feel a pull only on the strap. Your
fingers should remain loose throughout the shot.
With a finger-held release, your wrist should
stay straight and relaxed.
If you release with your fingers, start by
grasping the string at the first joints of your
first three fingers with the index finger above
the arrow nock and the other two fingers below
the nock. Rotate your string hand into a natural
position. As you draw, the middle finger should
hold most of the weight; and the other two
fingers should float on the string.
To draw, hold to a solid stance and place
your hands correctly on the bow and string. Hold
the bow at arms length and roughly aim at the
target; then begin to draw. Pull with the
muscles of your back. Your wrist, forearm, and
biceps should remain relaxed even at full draw.
Maintain your stance as you draw. When you reach
the point when the compound bow reaches its
lowest draw weight, anchor solidly and aim at
the target. When you anchor, you are planting
your index finger solidly on the surface of your
body. Some archers like to anchor with the big
knuckle of the index finger pressed behind the
jaw. Others like to anchor with the back of the
hand pressed against the jaw. The most important
thing about anchoring, though, is to be
consistent with the method you use and anchor
solidly and identically with every shot.
Finger-release shooters use one of two
anchoring methods--anchor fairly high with the
tip of the index finger planted solidly in the
corner of the mouth or use a lower anchor point
with the string hand under the chin and press
the big knuckle of the thumb behind the chin
When you release, it should be done in
complete relaxation. As the arrow leaves the
bow, your hands and arms should hold the same
position and the bow should move very little.
Lower the bow once the arrow strikes the target.
If the bow jerks violently down or to the
side while practicing, then you are too tense
somewhere in your form. Open or close your
stance and work on your bow hand, bow arm, and
string hand to eliminate the tension.
When practicing your technique, shoot with
your eyes closed and focus on relaxing, remove
the sight from your bow and shoot at a blank
target with no aiming spot, and shoot at long
distances--about 60 to 80 yards to build good
follow through. Donít drop your bow arm until
the arrow hits.
During your practice sessions, also take the
time to shoot slowly, shoot fast, shoot in bad
weather, and shoot in all positions. When you
practice in a field, shoot at tree stumps, dirt
clods, and grass clumps. You can also practice
shooting at 3-D targets, at trail shoots, and at
3-D tournaments. You will be shooting at animal
targets, not dots.
Of course, just as it is important to
practice using the bow, it is just as important
to practice using a rifle, pistol, muzzleloader,
or shotgun. Take some proper shells into the
woods and shoot at targets or attend a gun club
and practice your shooting at a range.
Hunting gear you need to acquire include
boots, outerwear, tree stand, deer call, a flash
or spot light, and a game cleaning kit.
Again, when selecting gear seek the advice of
the salesperson that is assisting you.
Know your adversary, in this case, the deer.
One important thing to keep in mind is the fact
that deer are nocturnal. That means that they
can see at night. That means that they are more
active at night. With that said, it should also
be noted that deer do not experience perfect
sight on a very dark night. A deer spends more
time looking for food rather than eating it on a
very dark night. However, on a clear night lit
by a full moon, a deer spends more time eating
food than looking for it. Moreover, deer tend to
be less active on days after a clear night
because they have fed well during the night and
their stomachs are full. So they are inclined to
stay near where they bed until sundown. At
sundown the deer will venture out to look for or
Deer venture out to feed or look for food
during the last minutes of daylight and return
to their bedding area in the first minutes of
daylight. With this in mind, the best hunting
time is from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30
minutes after sunset.
Weather also affects a deerís movements. It
is said that when it is raining or snowing
heavily, deer commonly stay in their bedding
area. After a heavy rain, however, the deer will
start moving because the rain dripping from
trees and brush make a noise that disturbs them
and prompts them to move. They will also move if
the heavy rain or snow occurred during their
feeding time. So when the storm ends, they are
out looking for food. The wind also unsettles
deer and incites them to move.
Finally, deer mate for about a month. In most
areas, that occurs in November. Deer are very
active in the middle of the day during this
period called the rut.
Placement of the shot is a very important
element in bagging the deer. The placement areas
are called the broadside, quartering away,
quartering toward, head on, rear end, and
For those using a firearm or bow, the best
shot placement is the chest area and the front
shoulder. Additional favorable areas to aim for
when using a firearm are the head, neck, or
center of the chest.
Choosing a time to hunt when there is snow on
the ground can prove ideal for stalking a deer.
The deerís mating season is the best time to
track, and the best time is about dawn. That
gives you an entire day to find fresh prints to
follow and lead you to your goal.
It is easiest to pick up the prints in a 1 to
2-inch blanket of snow that has just stopped
falling. Old tracks are covered, so there is no
confusion and fresh tracks will stick out. The
best territory for tracking in the snow is open
woods. There is cover among in which you can
hide, but you can still see a pretty good
distance too. Surprisingly enough, flat terrain
is not recommended and neither are areas of
dense cover. The deer can see you in flat
terrain; and if the deer can hear you, heís
warned and can take flight in dense cover.
Another interesting tip is that tracking can
prove more successful in areas of low deer
activity but a good buck to doe ratio. There
will be a number of tracks in densely populated
areas of deer, and tracking can become
The prints that have sharp edges with packed
snow on the bottom are the fresh tracks. Prints
that crumble along the edges with the bottom
glazed with ice are probably older tracks.
Try to find the feeding or bedding areas of
the deer and seek tracks along the edges of
If you have tracked deer before, you realize
that you need to be patient. It may take quite
awhile before you stumble on the deer that is
making the tracks you are following. If you do
not come across a deer after a full day of
tracking, come back the next day and pick up the
trail where you left off.
Finally, if you intend to stalk a deer, then
you need to be prepared for a long day. Bring a
backpack stuffed with a down vest, a first-aid
kit, rope, toilet paper, headlamp light, map and
compass, whistle, hand warmers, candle,
waterproof matches, folding saw, knife, candy
bars, sandwich, water, and extra wool socks.
So there you have it. Relax and be patient and
most of all, have a great time.