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HomeArticlesJames L. BrunerBasics Of Deer HuntingThe Basics Of Deer Hunting

Author: James L. Bruner

Typically I write about techniques and tactics for the deer hunter who is already acclimated into the sport and in several cases these articles pertain to advanced deer hunting techniques for a more advanced hunter. Imagine the knee-jerk reaction I got when I recently got my eyeballs on some statistics that documented the terms people were using to find some of these articles which were very obscure. In fact it was very easy to identify that a large number of these people were brand new deer hunters or hunters who had just been introduced to the sport. It became apparent that my language regarding certain aspects of hunting was probably above comprehension not because of their IQ level but because of their lack of experience in both hunting and talking to other hunters. Quite honestly it brought me back to my childhood recalling some of the deer stories as we sat around the table at camp and the adults would weave a tale of deer hunting like a painter splashing colors on a canvas. I didn’t know half of what they were talking about so I nodded my head in agreement. So that’s where this article comes in. Strictly right down to the basic bare bones of some common deer terms and techniques for those who care to know.

Where Do I Aim?
Deer Shot Placement Let’s start out with the number one question of where do I aim at the deer? The short answer would be aim for the vitals. The heart and lung area situated just behind the front shoulder of the deer as noted in the graphic. Take note of the bone structure in the front leg as this can turn an arrow off it’s intended course. If you’re shooting a firearm it’s really negligible as your bullet should break through the bone just fine however avoiding the bone is always a good measure. Try waiting until the deer moves it’s front leg forward when shooting from a broadside angle as this will open the vital area more. Of course you don’t have to always shoot for this vital area with a firearm. Many deer have been taken with neck and head shots although the latter is considered unethical by some.
Related Reading: Printable Targets

What Is My Comfort Zone?
Comfort Zone Your comfort zone is dictated by your shooting ability. It’s the area in which you feel comfortable that you make a clean and humane shot at the deer. This comfort zone will be different with each weapon such as a rifle will likely have a much larger comfort zone than your compound bow. You can expand your comfort zone with any weapon by practicing more often and extending your effective distance of shooting each time. Some hunters will use visual aids such as rangefinders to accurately gauge the distance to the animal before shooting. Others will simply pound a stick in the ground at the edge of their shooting range and if the deer is within that range they know the deer is in their comfort zone.
Related Reading: The Buttshot Buck

What Does It Mean To Drive Deer?
Deer Drives The act of driving deer means to attempt to make the deer move to a certain location through use of circumstances that would not be considered natural. For most hunters that means sending hunters into a certain patch of woods in hopes that they will force the deer from their cover of safety into an open area where a posted hunter can get a shot. In essence this is considered driving the deer to the hunter or posted hunter. Hence we get the term driving deer. Most times this form of hunting is used later in the deer season when the deer are holding tight in thicker cover and the majority of their travel is limited to hours of darkness. Often you will find these deer on a fast run on the primary trails leading to and from the bedding area.
Related Reading: Successful Deer Drives

What Is A Case Of Buck Fever?
Buck Fever Buck Fever is what many hunters call a curse that takes place every time a buck appears within shooting range and sometimes beyond. If you’ve never experienced buck fever then it would be hard to imagine the intensity that some hunters feel. Buck fever can fall into many different categories from a mild case to a full blown loss of the ability to react. In short, it’s nervousness. Some hunters have described their case of buck fever to having a bear growling in your face just inches away. Although the cause may be different the affect is the same. A nervous panic. And, don’t think this is limited to bucks as it is quite often the same feelings will arise when any deer approaches within shooting range. Your best defense against buck fever is more time in the woods in close proximity to the deer.
Related Reading: Dealing With Buck Fever

What Are Bachelor Bucks?
Bachelor Bucks You’ve probably seen them but without knowing the term they were just a couple two or three bucks all running together. In truth these bucks that form a group together for a short period in the late summer or early fall are called Bachelor Bucks. True to their name they won’t be sticking around the guys for too long. They get a sense of their competition so to speak during a time when the urge to breed is becoming more apparent. Often these bucks will display their dominance in subtle gestures as well as the occasional sparring match before breaking off and going their separate ways. If they meet again later in the season during a breeding period it’s highly likely that they will have already sorted out who is the king of this part of the forest with first choice of breeding rights.
Related Reading: Whitetail Rutting Stages

What Is A Deer Bed?
Deer Bed A deer bed is just what it seems to be. A place where a deer has spent some time or slept. This is a place where the deer felt safe enough to let it’s guard down somewhat so pay attention to the surroundings. If you see more beds in the area this is probably a place you want to leave alone and hunt the trails to and from this area as this would be classified as a bedding area. An important piece to the daily travel routes and patterns of a deer.
Related Reading: The Conifer Connection

What Do They Mean By Bedded Deer?
Doe Bedded Down Deer bedded down refers back to the above note regarding deer beds. Deer that bed during the day are typically on alert using the wind and the natural surroundings to their advantage in an attempt to smell, see, or hear and intruder long before it becomes a threat. Often deer will bed in different directions so that not all sets of eyes are pointed in one direction. Deer that are wounded will often bed down before recovering and moving forward staying ahead of the hunter.
Related Reading: Successful Deer Drives

What Is A Licking Branch?
Deer Licking Branch The licking branch as it is referred to would probably be better categorized as a nibbling branch as a buck tends to chew or gnarl the end of the branch to leave scent behind. Deer have several scent dispersing locations on their body which all play a part in leaving it’s signature for other deer. You will find the licking branch right about chest height above a scrape.
Related Reading: Deer Glands And Functions

What Is A Deer Scrape?
Deer Scrape A deer scrape is made by a buck. The buck will work the ground usually down to the bare dirt as a visual sign to other bucks that he considers this area his unless a larger buck comes along and runs him off. Smaller bucks will typically understand from the sight and scents left in a scrape that this buck is either larger and older than them or similar in size at which point the new buck may challenge the resident. You can fool a buck by creating a mock scrape as a challenge to his hierarchy.
Related Reading: How To Create A Mock Deer Scrape

What Is A Buck Rub?
Buck Rubbing Tree A buck rub is the action of a buck removing the bark from a tree by running it’s antlers up and down the trunk and often it’s tines are used to shred smaller brush. A buck rub can tell you many things once you learn to read a rub. Besides being a visual sign to other deer you will find that there is a lot of scent is left behind which, like the deer scrape, tells the other deer a lot about the animal that made the rub. While big bucks don’t always rub on big trees it’s more often than not that small bucks rub on smaller trees so a big rub could tell you something about the size of the deer.
Related Reading: Reading A Buck Rub

What Does Browsing Deer Mean?
Deer Browsing A deer browsing is simply when the animal is moving along eating and searching for food. It’s a lot like us at the buffet testing and searching for the best food. Deer browsing mean one thing for sure and that’s the fact that the deer is calm for the moment and doesn’t feel threatened. If you’re watching deer browse in front of you then good job. There are also methods to cut browse for deer especially in the later winter which work well for the more northern states.
Related Reading: 8 Steps To Successful Food Plots

I Hear Other People Talking About Calling Deer. What’s That About?
Deer Calling I can imagine the picture that statement invokes to someone who is absolutely new to deer hunting. Thankfully you can leave the cell phone in the vehicle because this calling will be done with little more than plastic and rubber bands for the most part. Calling is what you do to try and communicate with the deer in an attempt to lure it in closer either for a shot or a better look. There are numerous calls on the market that will appeal to both bucks and does so choose your call carefully and practice before heading out into the woods.
Related Reading: The Little Hunter

What Are Deer Droppings?
Deer Droppings I guess the picture says it all here but deer droppings, or scat, is nothing more than poop left behind from a resident deer. Other than the fact that a deer was once in this area, and possibly how long ago, a pile of droppings isn’t going to tell you a whole lot. There are myths about clumped deer poop only coming from bucks but those are just myths. Deer droppings that are clumped simply relate to the deer’s diet recently and possibly it’s current health.
Related Reading: Whitetail Myths And Facts

Why Does A Deer Grunt?
Whitetail Buck Grunting Deer, both bucks and does, communicate to one another using different vocalizations. The grunt from a buck changes often in tone, length, and volume. This depends on the current state of the buck such as he is currently tending to a doe in estrus. At this point he will defend his right to continue breeding with her and often walk around vocalizing with a tending grunt as she rests. Knowing your deer vocalizations and practicing can help you grab the attention of a deer when needed.
Related Reading: Buck Grunting Audio File

What Is A Mature Buck?
Mature Buck A mature buck is one that has aged to the point where he has become one of the largest and most dominant, if not the most dominant, buck in the immediate home rage of this particular animal. You could argue the fact that all it really refers to his age but most hunters agree that a mature buck is typically large in stature and a true trophy by most standards. Often you will hear the term of mature bucks when speaking with game management officials as they try to balance the herd hoping to have more mature animals in future hunting seasons.
Related Reading: The Monarch Buck

I Hear The Word Non Typical Buck A Lot. What Does It Mean?
Non Typical Buck The term non typical refers to the buck’s antlers which are often out of balance with more tines and points on one side than the other. The non typical buck rarely shows a uniformity in it’s antlers and sometimes can grow to a tangled mess which have even been known to affect the deer’s eyesight or hearing. There are numerous instances that can take place where a deer grows an irregular, or non typical, set of antlers. These stem from the beginning of genetics to injuries, insects, and even human manipulation.
Related Reading: Non Typical Antlers

What Is Deer Rattling?
Rattling Antlers Rattling a set of antlers together is a form of communication and challenge in a deer’s world. Initially a buck hearing what seems to be two more bucks fighting would theorize that this must be for good cause since deer seldom actually fight when speaking in terms of percentages. Therefore this odd-buck-out as we will call him figures he should investigate. That would be when you, the rattler, should set the antlers down and take care of business. You have several choices when it comes to rattling. You can use real antlers that obviously sound great or you could use synthetic antlers or a rattling bag.
Related Reading: How To Decoy Whitetail Deer

What Is A Deer Shed?
Shed Antler On Snow I know someone out there reading is hoping I respond with it’s the shed with all the deer in it. So there you go. In all seriousness a deer shed should really be called an antler shed as this is truly what the term refers to. The antler shed is the process at the end of a year when the bucks body is somewhat winding down after a rutting season. This is especially true in the more northern states where the deer now turn towards survival. Being that the antlers are really of no longer use to the bucks they slowly dislodge from their pedicels and fall to the ground.
Related Reading: Late Season Whitetail Hunting

What Is A Deer Sparring?
Bucks Sparring Sparring is the action between two bucks where they touch antlers in sort of a playful jousting match. Typically this action will not escalate into a full out brawl especially when it takes place earlier in the season. Sparring between bucks helps them work out who is stronger and more dominant. You will also hear the term sparring referred to as tickling when hunters talk about rattling antlers. You would have to imagine two deer just barely touching antlers in sort of a mock fight scenario.
Related Reading: Bucks Sparring Audio File

Why Does A Deer Test The Wind?
Buck Testing The Wind A deer tests the wind to get a weather report of what is happening upwind of him. It’s sort of like seeing what is happening through use of their powerful sense of smell. Deer constantly are positioned and testing, or sniffing, the wind to gauge their safety factor. A deer will often turn it’s entire body to get the latest wind current as it swirls. A deer will also lick it’s nose to increase the sensitivity by allowing more scent molecules to adhere to it’s snout.
Related Reading: Sensible Scents

What Is A Deer In Velvet?
Buck In Velvet A deer in velvet pertains to the buck species and in particular it’s antlers. You will find in rare cases when a doe grows a set of antlers and often the velvet will stay on her antlers throughout the year. But generally we are talking about the soft velvet layer of tissue that covers a bucks growing antlers early in the season. This velvet will begin to dry and fall off as the season progresses and the deer’s body begins to change for the upcoming breeding season.
Related Reading: Non Typical Antlers


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