Now that you’ve found your deer hunting property, perhaps improved it, and maybe identified a particular buck, then it is time to plan your actual hunt.
There are a few methods used to hunt deer.
Hunting deer with dogs was not uncommon at one time. These days it is often illegal to hunt deer with the aid of dogs. I have not hunted deer with dogs, and don’t know how it is done. My understanding is that it is not much practiced these days.
If you want your dog to be involved in your deer hunting, then training him to collect shed antlers is a fine way to do so. Search the internet for dog trainers to help you with that. Or visit a hunting exposition. There will likely be dog trainers exhibiting there, and they should be able to help you out. But keep in mind that a dog chasing deer is a fine way to drive deer away from your property.
One of the reasons that hunting with dogs is not common is the same reason tracking deer is uncommon in much of the country. The owner of many hundreds, or thousands, of acres may have enough land to track deer, but the average hunter will not have the amount of land necessary to do so. There is not much point in tracking deer across your 40 acres if you can only do so for a few hundred yards before the deer moves onto your neighbor’s property.
It is my understanding that the deer hunters in Northern New England are the hunters who hunt by tracking. There is lots of public hunting land in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The public hunting in those states is large enough for you to follow a deer’s tracks for miles without trespassing.
The family that is always mentioned as the best deer hunters is the Benoits. There are several books written to describe how they hunt deer by tracking them and that is where you’ll want to turn your attention if tracking deer is what you want to do.
I wouldn’t recommend tracking deer in the large uninhabited lands if you are not at least very familiar with the area in particular. By wandering for miles, you’ll need to keep a close eye on where you are, and pay attention to the weather. Deer season runs through the fall and winter. Your survival skills will need to be good if order for you to track deer safely.
Many parts of the country still hunt deer by doing deer drives. Deer drives require lots of hunters, and lots of land to do well. With our culture of not being as friendly with our neighbors as we once were, and the preference to own our own land and not lets friends walk all over it, many places have seen a large decline in the number of deer drives.
The way a deer drive works is a few hunters stand in a line at a designated place, these hunters are on post. Then another line of hunters, walking spitting distance apart will walk, as a line, towards the hunters on post. All might carry guns, but those doing the walking will rarely see the deer that they are flushing out in front of them, and it will be the hunters on post that do most of the shooting. Much care must be taken to not shoot other hunters because many of them are out and it is difficult to tell where everyone is at any given time.
When deer are driven from their hiding places their path will often be a large arc. They seem to want to prefer to return to where they were, and to see whatever it is that drove them out.
Running shots at deer will be expected and hitting a fast moving target is always more difficult than hitting a stationary target.
One more thing to note about driving deer is that does will often make lots of noise when they are spooked. They will snort, and not make any effort to run away quietly. Does usually want to let all nearby deer know that there is danger around. Bucks are more likely to just try and disappear. Does will sometimes just try and disappear too, but if a deer is moving quietly it is most likely a buck.
Another deer hunting method is to walk around in the woods very slowly and quietly hoping to see a deer. I have tried this but have found it to be extremely ineffective and difficult. You are much better off stand hunting. When attempting this method you do not want to walk faster than around one step every ten minutes, or so I’m told. I’m no where near patient enough for that, and that would explain my poor results while attempting it (one miss with a muzzleloader).
All of the above mentioned deer hunting methods are of most use while hunting with a gun. It is incredibly difficult to get into archery range while hunting any of those ways. Hitting a running deer, during a deer drive, with an arrow would be a near impossible feat; almost no one would even try it.
The method of hunting deer most used today, and nearly exclusively by me, is stand hunting. The plan with stand hunting is to pick a good spot and then wait for the deer to arrive. The spot might be improved with bait, water, or food plots, but that is not always necessary.
Much like the tracker, a stand hunter needs to know the land. Deer need food, water, and cover. A stand hunter needs to know where all of those things are. Deer will spend their days in the cover and move to where there is food at dawn and dusk.
Ideally a stand hunter will have his stand located between the cover, parts of which are a deer’s bedding area, and the food, and/or water. Putting your stand in the cover will drive the deer away from that cover and looking for cover somewhere else. Putting your stand directly over the food, or water, means that there will be times when there are so many deer around that you won’t be able to move to shoot a deer. Deer are always looking out for danger and when you’re over food, they may be lots of deer, and lots of deer noses, eyes, and ears looking out for trouble.
Stand hunting deer has lots of advantages. Hunting from a stand means that you’ll rarely get lost, you get to hunt your own property, even if it is small, and you get to create and improve your own habitat. Its really the only way to hunt with a bow as well. (Unless your hunting skill vastly exceeds the author’s, and if so, you’d not need to read a book like this.)