The worst thing that can happen on your hunt is to get out into the wild and not see any deer, so we've prepared this primer on how to find a whitetail deer while hunting. Whitetails are the large game that has adapted the most to human intervention. You may see them on the outskirts of town or grazing in quiet open areas like graveyards a mile into town, but when hunting season comes around, whitetails know how to hide and stay out of eyesight of hunters not in the know.
What you'll need:
- good eyes and ears
- knowledge of landscape
- permission to go onto the land you are searching for whitetail deer
- a hunting permit and license
- Deer tags
- hunting gear
- Scout maps. Look for topographical signs where deer may pass. If there are hills or ridges, deer will often pass between the ridges, called "deer funnels" by many hunters. Think about it – would you want to climb over every ridge? Find a place you can overlook a deer funnel in the morning or evening when deer are moving from bedding to feeding grounds. Also, look for open areas that are adjoined by heavily wooded land. There will again be areas where deer pass through or graze in the open pasture. These can be perfect places to find deer while hunting.
- Walk the land. Whatever land you have permission to hunt, get to know it well. Find the rough spots that take a bit of extra effort where deer may hide when pressured by other hunters. These can be great places to set up early so when other hunters approach, deer are driven to you.
- Look for telltale signs – scrape marks, scat and bedding. After buck's horns grow in the animals scrape the fuzzy texture off of them against trees leaving marks where the tree looks battered. You'll be able to see where deer have been, and that can set you up for finding a whitetail while hunting.
- Plant feed lots. A great way to find deer is to invite them over for dinner. If you have land and can plant a feed lot put it in an open field with adjoining cover. You can set a stand either in the cover or build a stand within shooting range, but with enough distance for whitetails to come out.
- Put up decoys. Decoys will attract buck whitetails more than they will does. Males will investigate a female decoy, especially if sprayed with a doe-in-heat scent and act aggressively toward male decoys. This is another opportunity to find a whitetail deer hunting by letting him find you.
- Take a stand. Getting above the action is a great way to find whitetails while hunting. Use a proper safety harness and commercially available stand for safety purposes. Set up in one of the earlier mentioned ares or find a wooded area whitetails travel through.
- Use a call. Wheeze and grunt calls can be very successful in finding whitetail deer while hunting, as can rattling. As the deer approaches stay quiet. A buck will be looking for you, you don't want him to find you and spook.
- Stalk your prey. In the northeast, many hunters use a tracking method where they look for whitetail tracks, then track the animal through the wild. You'll need access to wide open tracts of land to find whitetail deer on this type of hunt.