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Harvesting a Whitetail

By Keith Andrews

                                     How to Harvest Your First Whitetail        

The Basic’s to Deer Hunting Success

In this article, we will discuss how you can land your first deer. While much information has been published over the years about landing the trophy class buck of our dreams, few articles cover the very basics of filling your first tag. Many new hunters go afield each year and end their season frustrated and unsuccessful in their pursuit.  

Well, get ready for some easy study and a new outlook for your future deer Keith with a great deerseasons. The information you are about to acquire here will help you not only land your first deer, but also will allow you to take deer consistently each and every season. Once you harvest your first whitetail deer, you will suffer from an addiction like no other. The experience of matching wits with North America’s most popular game animal will be surprisingly fulfilling and satisfying, as well as put some healthy meat in your freezer.

I came to bowhunting late. For years, I had been a successful gun hunter and didn’t really become interested in bowhunting until I made it onto a pro-staff. I knew acquiring the new skills would be a challenge, but it was a challenge that I knew I had to commit myself to, and so I set out to fill my first tag with a bow in hand. I scouted and set up a stand in a squeeze area between a pond and a field edge that had a well-used deer trail. I set up close (perhaps too close) to this trail for an afternoon hunt. I had been on stand for about an hour and a half when I heard movement south of my position. I slowly raised my binoculars to see two does some 50 yards out making their way down the trail, and they were on course to come right by my stand. I moved slowly, picked up my bow from the hanger, and waited.

I had set up this stand site so that when the deer would pass my stand, they would be hidden behind some cedars, allowing me a chance to draw without being seen. The deer kept coming down the trail, and as I had planned, they passed behind the cedars; I drew my bow. I waited for them to clear the cedars, and passed an arrow through both lungs on the leading doe. She dropped within 20 paces and the shot was a mere 8 yards. It’s a day that I will never forget. You too can also have this kind of success whether using a gun or a bow. There is no magic or mystery to hunting success, just good old-fashioned work and common sense.             

While this article is mainly aimed at the first time hunter, the information here can be applied to those more experienced hunters as well. These principles, basic and fundamental, are the tried and true tactics used by successful deer hunters each season to fill their deer tags.

Do Not Educate the Deer Herd

An educated deer herd is much harder to hunt. The first thing you should concentrate on is simple: do not educate the deer you will be hunting. For trophy class bucks, you have to scout thoroughly to be successful. For these elite bucks, Getting ready for that first hunttactics and scouting become something totally different when compared to the rest of the deer herd. But remember, we are talking about you getting your first deer.

The most common mistake many hunters make is to scout thoroughly for sign, and then select stand-sites. Little thought is given as to how they will approach these stand-sites (or exit them) without disrupting the deer herd. A better method is to check out a topographic map of your selected hunting area, and look for areas that would make good approach and exit points into and out of suspected hot spots. Once you have done this, then you can take a trip to your hunting area and carefully look for sign along those entry/exit routes, and scout for feeding and bedding areas. 

Approaching Your Hunting Area Starts with Where You Park Your Vehicle

In deer country, farms are abundant. Asking to park on a farmers property is a good time to ask if he or she has anyone hunting their property. If they do not, then you could be on to something special. Now is a good time to ask for permission to hunt their land. This is also the time to make a good first impression. Act professionally, and represent hunting as an aid to the farmer and not a hindrance. Many farmers appreciate the services of an ethical and responsible hunter.    




I live in Indiana; and here, we hunt farmland and public land. Most of the places I hunt are farmland, so parking is a non-issue. Deer on farmland are used to hearing vehicles stop and doors slam shut on a regular basis. However, years ago I saw something that taught me a lesson about how deer get educated. I was hunting on public land in Southern Indiana and this particular tract only had one parking area. I had approached my hunting area from an adjacent back road so as not to spook A great first buckdeer on the way in to my stand. I had been on stand only about fifteen minutes when I heard a vehicle pull into the parking area, stop and the door slam. I had been watching several deer north of my stand. Now, they were looking in the direction of the vehicle. Suddenly, they took off for cover, and of course, would not past my stand-site on their way out. I am sure that poor hunter sat on stand for hours and never caught a glimpse of a deer. I never did hear him shoot that morning. But what I had witnessed, I took to heart. On my way out of the woods that day I carried my treestand with me. Game over!

The aforementioned example proves that parking is an important part of your hunting plan. If you hunt in an area where a farmer lives, ask to park on his or her property and explain why it is you wish to do so. You never know, they may even grant you permission to hunt on their property as well. A quarter mile walk to your stand location is not out of the question. Remember, deer are sensitive to their surroundings and will be suspicious of vehicle noise in areas where it is not common. This one mistake, a common mistake, will educate the deer herd and make them harder to hunt.

Entry and Exit Routes and Selecting Your Stand Sites

Routes to and from your stand sites will make or break your hunt. With that being said, it becomes apparent that time should be spent obtaining all the information you need to select a stand site that will produce. You have studied your topographic map for possible entry/exit routes; you have located a good place to park your vehicle so you will not educate and spook the deer herd. Now the next step is to enter your hunting area. This should be done at least a few weeks before the deer season starts. Take a pad, pencil and your topographic map along with you, and make sure you use a Odor Elimination system to keep your scent from contaminating your hunting area. Yes, odor elimination is important even during your scouting trips. Study your topo map for valleys, creeks, draws, ditches and over-grown fence lines; any kind of land-break that will allow you to be hidden while you enter your hunting area to scout for possible stand sites, as well as get into and out of your stand sites during the hunting season. The less the deer are aware of your presence, the more successful you will be. 

When deer approach your stand-site, be prepared. While you are setting up your stand-site, envision how and when you will take your shot. Remember, you should be within 30 yards of the trail you are hunting. This takes any range estimation out of the equation if you are gun hunting. However, if you are bowhunting, you will need to know what your range is to your intended target animal. During stand-site setup is the time to figure this out. Prepare your shooting lanes and place markers in those shooting lanes at known ranges to help take  the guess work out of your shot, and remove some of the stress of taking your first shot at your first deer.




Select your stand sites very near your entry/exit route and be sure they are located on higher ground. If you concentrate on lower ground areas, such as valleys, draws and the like, you will have a hard time dealing with low-level air currents and thermals. Your scent tends to swirl and drift in these areas and deer will pick you off. What you will be looking for is a well-used doe-family deer trail littered with fresh tracks, maybe some droppings and other deer sign. Once you locate the trail you want to hunt, ask yourself, “What is the prevailing wind direction?” You will need to select a stand site with this important question in mind. A set-up on the downwind side and within 30 yards of the trail will be your best bet. Moreover, to insure that your hunt is successful, select at least two stand sites on this same trail just in case the prevailing wind is different on opening morning. If this would happen to be the case, you will be prepared for the wind change, and you can make the necessary move. Once you have selected your stand sites, don’t forget to prepare shooting lanes. There is nothing more frustrating than having a deer in range, and have no clear path to make a responsible and ethical shot. Never take a questionable shot.

Now that you have selected your first entry/exit routes and stand sites, you will want to investigate at least two more entry/exit routes into different hot spots of your hunting area and repeat the process. This will allow you to play the wind and it will insure that you can effectively hunt your hunting area regardless of what the prevailing wind direction will be on any particular day. One important note here: Stay away from feeding areas while you approach or exit your stand sites. If deer see you approaching your morning stand, or catch you leaving your afternoon stand while they are feeding in these areas, you will spook and educate those deer and your chances of success will be decreased. Successful hunters know that alerting deer while you enter or exit your stand site is a tactical no-no and a sure “tag sandwich.”  

So there you have it. First, select a parking spot away from your hunting area; select effective routes in and out of your hunting area; then select stand sites close to these routes; properly prepare your stand sites; and have your Benchmade knife ready ( to dress your first of many deer to wear your tag.

In Closing

Everyone here at Deep Countree is dedicated to being the most effective, ethical and safest hunters we can be. We strive to hone our skills constantly, and we understand that our tradition of hunting is important to the management and the A very successful first huntoverall health of the game we pursue. We take this responsibility seriously. Additionally, we as hunters, are responsible for keeping the tradition of hunting alive and well, and help to grow our sport with every outing. We also do this by publishing articles such as this one, which will allow the new hunter to learn basic skills and fill his or her tags. Nevertheless, as hunters, this by far is not the end of our responsibilities.

Only we can insure that our future generations can enjoy the tradition of the hunt. Talk about hunting; be an example of professionalism; and take someone hunting who has never experienced the great outdoors. Through these introductions, we can keep our generational traditions alive and allow people to not only enjoy family, friend and the great American outdoors, but also understand why hunting is important to wildlife, commerce and humanity. It is these principles that make us true hunters; hunting for our next trophy…while caring for the hunting tradition and passing that tradition on to the next generation.