Beginner’s Guide to Whitetailed Deer Hunting

A beginner’s guide to whitetailed deer hunting and scouting in North America.

  • As the season wears on, whitetail bucks get more aggressive and territorial.
    Photo by
  • A climbing tree stand like the one the hunter has at left allows the hunter to change location on the fly.
    Photo by
  • Bucks get all the trophy attention, but doe meat is usually better tasting.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • The challenge of bow hunting, and even bow fishing, is a major draw of the sport. But practice is critical to ethical hunting and successful results.
    Photo by
  • Ladder tree stands are easy to put up, and even come in two-man models.
    Photo by Golombisky
  • A grunt tube is one of the more useful tools in the archer’s arsenal.
    Photo by
  • Gritty always uses his safety harness in the tree.
    Photo by Brad Anderson Illustration
  • You often will find does traveling in groups.
    Photo by Maffe

I can still clearly recall my first whitetail. It was an unseasonably hot October afternoon, the leaves on the oak trees were vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. Squirrels frantically gathered nuts for winter. I climbed up into my perch 20 feet above the forest floor, anticipating the afternoon. Mentally playing out every imaginable scenario, I felt prepared. As the sun began to drop, I noticed movement a mere 20 yards away — it was a buck. I froze, fearing that he had seen me, surprised he’d snuck to that range without me at least hearing him. As I gathered my thoughts, I knew it was now or never. I slowly drew my bow, settled my pin right behind his shoulder, and let my arrow fly. It hit the mark, my heart was racing, and I was so focused on where the buck ran that I dropped my bow to the ground below. In that moment, I knew that deer hunting topped my list of favorite hobbies.

Hunting whitetail deer can be a hobby that lasts all year long or just a few short months, depending on your time and obsession. With a few tips, you too can place a tag on this smart, majestic animal of the North American countryside.


A key element to being successful in the whitetail woods is to do your homework. Scouting is just as important, I’d even say more important, than the actual hunt itself. My favorite time to scout is in the winter after all seasons have closed: The temperature is cool, and that allows you to spend more time with your boots on the ground. You will also be able to find deer trails much easier, and with all the leaves off the trees, you can gain a perspective of the topography. The best part of scouting during winter is that by the time your plan turns into action, the deer will have no memory of your presence.

You can also scout during summer, yet it is a little more difficult because of heat, foliage, pesky bugs, poison ivy, and other seasonal hazards.

While scouting, you want to look for a few key things.

First, you want to find deer trails. At certain times of the year, deer are very consistent and will travel the same trails day after day as long as they are not spooked. Deer are just like people, they will most always follow the path of least resistance. It is also very important to look for what I call travel corridors or funnels/bottlenecks/pinch points. Google Earth is a great tool for helping you find these areas. Look for anything natural or man-made that directs the deer down a certain path. An example is two big areas of timber connected by a small block of woods — natural crossing spots with cover. Or maybe a fence with a gate opening, or better yet a cliff face where they can only cross in one spot.

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