Deer Hunting Basics
Today, we are going to learn Deer Hunting Basics. Deer hunting is as old as civilization and provided our ancestors with a source of lean protein as well as material for clothing and shelter. The last 100 years has seen a shift away from hunting deer out of necessity into one of sport and keeping our hunting skills sharp, a tribute to those ancient humans.
It’s a stretch even to attempt to cover how to hunt deer in such a small amount of space, but we are going to lay out the basics of deer hunting for those looking to begin a lifelong pursuit. Before we begin, I found an awesome deer hunting video for beginners. So go ahead, grab a drink, sit back and watch the video and enjoy!
How to Hunt Whitetail Deer – Hunting Rifle Buck Season in Pennsylvania 2016
As we will discuss, the practice of utilizing everything a deer has to offer has seen a renaissance in the hunting world, a trend we hope continues. Everyone knows what to do with the meat, but an often- underutilized part of the deer is the hide. In this chapter, we will also take a look at the steps to correctly tan a whole deer hide.
Deer Hunting Safety Tips
Deer Hunting Essentials List
Deer Hunting Basics
We’re going to go into this with the assumption that you understand the basic gear involved with deer hunting. You know, the gun or bow and camo. What we want to outline in this first section are the basics of locating deer, understanding their behavior, and how you go about finding and setting up for a harvest.
What Deer Need
Having a basic understanding of what deer need to survive allows you to make your initial scouting much more efficient.
So, what do deer need to survive?
Water is of course, essential for all living creatures on Earth, deer included. Deer normally do not have large home ranges and generally will stay around a five mile or less radius. If you can find a water source such as a pond or creek, there is going to be a deer population in the area.
One of the first steps to scouting an area and determining where deer traffic is found is to determine food sources in the area. If there are crops in the area, you can bet that there will be deer feeding in those areas consistently early in the season and up to rut.
Deer also feed heavily on browse, such as woody plants, as well as mast (nuts and fruits). All of these foods are going to attract deer and during the early and late season, should be your focus point and branching out from there to find deer.
Deer also need a form of shelter. This often in the form of heavier brush or thickets where they can escape from predators. These areas are also places deer like to bed down. You will often find deer holding, especially in the colder winter months, on the southeast side of embankments or land rises which protect them from brutal winds.
If you can nail down these three requirements from scouting and maps, you can be confident that you will be in an area that is patrolled by deer.
When Deer Move
Understanding when deer are the most active allow you to be in the woods during these times. For just about any time during the year, especially during the season, deer are usually going to be more active at night making the best times to hunt them early in the morning, when they are moving back to bed, and late in the afternoon when they are moving to begin eating.
This is not always the case as there have been thousands of deer taken in the middle of the day. Regarding activity though, early daylight hours and the last two hours of shooting light have the highest deer activities.
Things can change during the peak of the deer mating season, the rut, where deer are moving just about at all hours of the day.
The most important aspect is not only understanding when deer are moving but their routes. Deer are creature of habit and will often hold to the same travel lanes if not disturbed.
Scouting before the season and looking for tracks and scat in areas where there is a noticeable path through the woods or vegetation will give you a decent idea of these travel lanes and can be extrapolated to feeding and bedding areas.
Deer Behavior in Different Seasons
Though this is a generalization, for this chapter we can split the normal deer season into three distinct time periods based on how deer are behaving.
During the early season deer are focused on feeding, and they are feeding hard. With scouting and observing deer movements, you can pin down times and locations of deer movement. Though it’s much easier said than done, the early season is the easiest period for predicting when and where the deer are going to be at.
We could write a book, and there are several out there, on deer behavior during the rut. Rut often occurs around the first real cold snap and usually ranges around mid-November in most areas. During this time, bucks are searching hard for does and breeding takes the place of feeding. It’s much more difficult to predict deer movements during this time.
If you have located rubs and know areas where deer are localizing, you can use estrous scents and even rattling to increase your chances of success. There will also be periods during the rut where deer activity seems to fall off dramatically. This is because a lot of bucks are bedded down with does and can last for several days. Activity usually picks up back to rut levels shortly after.
After the rut has concluded, usually after two to three weeks, the focus switches back to feeding. Deer are in their worst state of the year at this point and are in high need of food after spending the last month breeding. If there are winter crops in the area, these will be magnets for deer. Browse is most often the top food source in non-agricultural hunting grounds as well as any leftover mast from earlier in the fall.
How to Set Up
There are several strategies for getting the drop on deer. If you have done your homework and have an idea of the general area deer are in, and their travel lanes, the most common method is an ambush. Setting up a tree stand or blind along these areas with clear shooting lanes and sitting and waiting for the deer to show up.
How close you are to travel lanes or feeding areas is going to depend on your choice of weapon as well. With a rifle or muzzleloader, there is no reason to be set up in dense growth right over or on a trail where your chances for spooking deer is much greater. All situations are different, and part of becoming an efficient deer hunter is putting yourself in those positions and having success and failures and learning how to adapt to what is around you and how the deer are behaving.
Scoping or glassing deer from a distance and then positioning yourself for a shot is another popular method and demands more physical fitness and another level of strategy. This method is great when hunting more open areas that contain changes in elevation where you can view large areas of land. In dense woods, this tactic is much more difficult.
Regardless of the tactics that you choose to go with, there is a level of woodsmanship that goes along with success. You need to keep your sound and scent footprint down to minimum. Being quiet in the woods just comes with practice, but you can always be cautious with your scent.
Using a scent masker is a good start, but more than anything you need to have yourself positioned downwind of where you expect deer to be. You can have all the equipment, done all the scouting, and have a fantastic setup, but if you have not accounted for the wind direction and yours and the deer’s location, it will all be in vain.
After the Harvest/The Hide
At the advent of hunting, taking a deer was not just a sport but a means of survival. Too often hunters simply take the animals for the antler rack and neglect such valuable parts of the deer. We have seen a trend back towards the full utilization of the deer, and we believe it is for the best.
Even with this trend of taking advantage of all of the resources a harvested deer can provide, the hide is still shamefully neglected. Most often the deer hide is used for decorations purposes, but the hide and buckskin can also be used to make wonderfully soft and beautiful garments and pouches if you have or know someone with the requisite skill set. Tanning your hide is also going to save you a good deal of money compared to farming out the process to others.
Tanning Guide: Step by Step
Removing the Hide:
We are going to focus more on the tanning process than the removal, but generally, we like to work with a hide that has been removed from above the tarsal glands on the back legs to below the jaw. This gives a full hide that can be used for a variety of clothing or decoration purposes.
All cuts should be made on the inside of the body as this will make a better-looking hide in our opinion. You will also need to debone the tail if you want that part of the hide included.
Removing the Flesh:
Once the hide is removed, you will notice that the underside of the hide still has a layer of cartilage and other tissue. Removing all of this is critical to having a well-preserved hide and makes the tanning process much more effective. We don’t like using a sharp knife; it is too easy to cut through or damage the hide.
A duller knife that still has a slight edge is the best tool to use. This process is extensive and time-consuming, but it has to be done to have an evenly tanned hide. You will notice a white layer of skin, and this is right below the hairline. Be sure to not cut through this layer.
Hair or No Hair:
From here you have two options for the hide. You can keep the hair on or remove the hair to make buckskin. If you want to move forward with the hair intact jump ahead to step 5. To remove the hair from the hide and make a buckskin, mix 1 gallon of hardwood ashes, 2 pounds of household lime (slaked), and 5 gallons of warm water. Stir the mixture until everything is dissolved.
Completely immerse the deerskin in the mixture. Stir the mixture several times a day until the hair comes off easily. This will take at least 2 to 3 days and maybe a fourth. Be sure to check every day, keeping the skin in this solution for too long will cause it to deteriorate.
Removing the Hair:
Place the hide on a raised surface with the hair side up. Use the back of a knife to scrape off the hair and then rinse the skin several times with clean water.
You then need to soak the hide for 24 hours in a mixture of 5:1 ratio of water to vinegar. Stir this mixture with the hide in it every few hours.
Once the skin has soaked for 24 hours, soak the hide in the clean water overnight. This step neutralizes and removes the lime and ash mixture and keeps the hide from deteriorating.
Once you have the flesh removed and/or removed the hair it’s time to salt the hide hard. You can’t over salt the hide, so be sure to be generous with it. We like non-iodized salt because it will not cause the hide to stain. What the salt is doing it drying out the moisture from the hide.
Several pounds of salt should be used. Work it into the hide and let the hide sit overnight. From here you can continue with the tanning process or freeze the hide for later work. Salting also helps loosen up any leftover pieces of tissue so be sure to go through one more round of scraping before moving on.
Cleaning the Hide:
Before we get into the actual process of tanning, you need to wash as much of the salt off the hide as possible. We like to soak the hide in several gallons of clean water for several hours and then going over the skin side of the hide with the backside of a knife or a similar surface. Having absorbent towels to blot dry is also very effective.
There are some options you have for tanning the hide. There are commercial tanning solutions that are probably the most convenient. Another option is a salt/aluminum alum solution. The commercial kits often come with directions and usually take 4-5 days of soaking the hide or just rubbing in the solution and letting it sit for several days.
We soak our hides in large trashcans or buckets that will be able to hold at least 8 gallons of water easily. The most common homemade tanning solution is made from 2.5lbs of salt in 4gallons of water with 1lb of ammonia alum that has been added to 1 gallon of water and is slowly added to the salt solution. The hide should be stirred several times every day. Some tanners will tell you to refrigerate the soaking hide, but as long as the weather outside is staying under 45F, it should be fine outdoors as long as it is covered.
Draining the Hide:
This step is especially important if you have to soak the hide for several days rather than let the hide sit with a tanning solution rubbed into it. When using a soaking method, take out the hide and rinse it gently with water and allow it to drain for an hour. You do not want it to dry out completely as it is much more difficult to soften the hide in this state. Once you have a moist hide that is not dripping, we like to add some oil or fat liquor into the hide.
Softening the Hide:
At the end of the tanning process, however, you went about tanning and drying, you’re going to have a stiff hide. Our favorite way to work the stiffness out is to use a saw horse, but any line or piece of flat surface you can pull the hide over will work. As you stretch the hide and work it over the flat surface, you will begin to tell by feel the leather begin to loosen up and have a more subtle feel.
As the hide dries, moisten the skin lightly with a spray bottle of damp cloth and pull the hide back and forth over the sawhorse, dampening the hide as needed, until you have the hide as soft as you want it. During this process, you can also continue to add some oil or fat liquor as needed.
Hunting deer is a long process. It begins with scouting the land and studying deer movements, moves to getting boots in the field trying to harvest a deer, and hopefully ends with you utilizing as much of the deer as possible. There is a plethora of information on deer hunting that is available.
This is by no means an in-depth discussion on the intricacies of deer hunting, but we hope that it outlines some of the basic ideas behind the sport and provides a proven and detailed guide on how to utilize on of the most underused part of the deer. You might find it time-consuming or you might find that it becomes part of the ritual of harvesting deer. Whatever it becomes, we hope you at least try it once.
Now You Know Deer Hunting Basics!
Well, you just learned the basics of deer hunting and how to tan a hide. Although these are just the basics of deer hunting, you now have the knowledge you need to become a great hunter. Nothing beats experience so it takes time to become a proficient hunter. I would also suggest proper instruction from a seasoned deer hunter as well. Who better to learn from than a hunter with experience and knowledge. Deer hunting is art and you need to learn as much as you can so I would suggest you save this page for future reference or buy a copy of The Lost Ways II Book.
The Deer Hunting Basics you learned here today came right out of The Lost Ways II Book written by Claude Davis who is a Wild West historian and an expert survivalist. This Deer Hunting chapter is just one of many inside this incredible book. You’ll also learn some of the same skills our forefathers used to survive a wild and untamed American frontier. Learn how to build a log cabin just like a pioneer, how to make lost pioneer recipes (they are so good!), how to preserve pork without refrigeration and so much more! The Lost Ways II is an American National Treasure and a must have book!
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The Lost Ways II Book is just one in a trilogy of best selling books written by Claude Davis. If you own one book you’ll have to have them all! Your collection wouldn’t be complete! The Lost Ways Book Collection will take you back in time when America was wild and untamed. You’ll get an intimate look at what daily like was really like for early American pioneers. If you have any comments or questions about deer hunting or The Lost Ways II Book, please leave them below now and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for visiting with us today! Now that you have learned Deer Hunting Basics. Go out with an experienced hunter and then come back and let me know how things went.
I’ll see you on the next page,