View Full Version : First time deer hunting! - Need advice from the regulars.

November 1, 2007, 11:40 AM
I am no novice to firearms, but for some reason I never made the leap from target shooting to real hunting until now. I've been bird hunting plenty of times, but I've never in my life hunted anything with four legs and warm blood. I recently managed to get hooked up with a buddy on a phenomenal lease near Rowena, TX, and this weekend will be my first experience at deer hunting.

I grew up as an experienced boyscout and so I'm no stranger to the outdoors, but I have no idea what kind of special things I might need to bring to assist me. Things like a knife, cleaning supplies, coolers, etc.? I'm a complete noob and I could really use help with this.

The general layout includes 8 stands and plenty of room for everyone, and deer camp has basic water and electricity available. I'll probably tent camp and eat easy to prepare dry meals so that angle is covered.

The feeders have been stocked for several weeks, and numerous deer have already been spotted all over the property.

What I need most help with is what to outfit myself with. I'll be out with some grizzled veterans who also hunt the lease, but I don't want to lean heavy on them and take any pleasure out of their weekend. I'd ask them, but I don't really know them yet, I just happen to now share a lease with them. Since I'm new to the group, I know it's important to make a good impression in terms of how I handle myself, firearms safety, preparedness, etc.

I'll probably be on this lease a long time with these guys and I really want to make the right first impression. I've done all the studying I can do on how to prepare and field dress a deer, but having no actual experience I think I'm going to fail miserably at it the first time. I'm hunting with a .30-06 and a very nice Leopold scope, and I've done some research on target area for a clean kill.

I know you want to hit the deer in the heart/lungs area, but what is the best way to ensure you can do this? (I'm a very good shot) What's the best way to get a deer out of the field? How do you store it? How do you clean up after? What do you do with the innards? How do you clean yourself and the area after? How do you best quarter the meat to get it into coolers?

On another note, what do I do to make sure I'm not breaking any unspoken rules and traditions of "deer camp." I am completely new to this world so I need all the tips and advice I can get. Lastly, I live in Arlington, TX so does anyone know a good processor in this area?

Thank you for anyone willing to help!


November 1, 2007, 12:12 PM
I'll be out with some grizzled veterans who also hunt the lease, but I don't want to lean heavy on them and take any pleasure out of their weekend. I'd ask them, but I don't really know them yet, I just happen to now share a lease with them. Since I'm new to the group, I know it's important to make a good impression in terms of how I handle myself, firearms safety, preparedness, etc.

First of all, be honest with them. Tell them right off that this is your first hunt. You might as well tell them right away, because it is pretty easy to spot a newbie hunter. That way, they can put you in a good, easy spot, tell you what to do, and make sure that somebody can keep an eye on you or check up on you once in a while.

The only time I've been irritated by a complete newbie was when a guy had no idea how to load his own gun, or how the safety worked. It scared me. Another time, the newbies were in my hunting area (on the opposite side of a field), and kept getting up and moving to switch spots (one of 'em even climbed a friggin' tree). The deer could spot that movement from miles away, and we never saw a thing.

Make sure you sight in the gun before you leave for the trip. Make sure you have ammo, a knife, snacks, water, sharpening stone, cleaning kit, and back-up rifle (if possible).

If you shoot a deer, you're going to have to have one of them teach you how to properly gut it. It isn't rocket science, but you'll need help the first couple of times.

Have lots of fun, and don't worry so much! You'll be fine; make some friends, let a couple of them teach you some things, and enjoy the trip! :)

P.S. Use the search function for "tips advice new hunter." Lots of good info has been given here in the past.

November 1, 2007, 12:35 PM
First of all, be honest with them. Tell them right off that this is your first hunt.


Most experienced hunters won't mind helping out the new guy. Also, try helping out around camp (gathering & cutting fire wood, etc.) as mush as possible. This will get you in good with the older guys. Nobody likes a slacker. Since your buddy got you on this lease, ask him for advice on some of the unwritten rules. In time you'll learn what is and isn't so important to your fellow lease members. Most of all enjoy yourself.

November 1, 2007, 02:25 PM
Since I'm new to the group, I know it's important to make a good impression in terms of how I handle myself, firearms safety, preparedness, etc.

If you show up and know how to handle your rifle safely and it is sighted in, they will not mind helping with the other stuff.

unspoken rules and traditions of "deer camp."

Pull your weight (and then some) with general chores and make sure you have enough to offer up some of whatever you have. Be it a bottle of water, gatorade, or afterhours adult beverages - at least offer. Offering to share is a sign you want to be part of the group.

Stay on the schedule everyone else seems to settle in to - wake up, eating, call it a night. Don't get up way earlier than everyone else just because you are excited, take a book and flashlight to bed and read until you hear other people stirring around or your alarm clock tells you to get up. If it is a community coffee pot, find out how to use it and establish that as your responsibility. Everyone looks out for the guy who has coffee going every morning.

Have fun, be yourself. I think most people can handle beginners if they admit they don't know and are willing to learn.

November 1, 2007, 02:52 PM
Good advice has been posted. All I'll add is to keep your eyes open and your mouth closed. Most veteran hunters will be more than happy to help you out with gutting, skinning etc. You should be willing to do any chores around camp and in the field.

You should also expect a lot of (hopefully) good-natured ribbing. Go with the flow and don't get upset.

November 1, 2007, 07:11 PM
I know you want to hit the deer in the heart/lungs area, but what is the best way to ensure you can do this?

Best is to take a broadside shot, or quartering away. Keep it close to the shoulder/leg. Nastiest gut job in the world is a hit that is too far back. But it does happen (that is how I know how nasty it is..:o)

Best advice for your situation I could give would be to be very sure of your shot. All my mis-hits (and everyone who hunts enough will have some) are etched in my mind way deeper than my good shots. From a stand on a good lease, you should have ample opportunity to get the shot you want.

Rough rule of thumb is heart/lung area is about the size of a paper plate, so it is not like you are trying to shoot a dime - but you do have to pick an exact point to aim at 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the chest right behind the shoulder

November 1, 2007, 09:33 PM
Some things probably forgot but you'll wish you had if you don't take them. Just keep them in the backpack.

A novel or a couple of magazines.
A few individually wrapped DEET wipes.
A pack of baby wipes.
Needle and thread.
Spare boot laces.
Aspirin, Tylenol, Rolaids, Benadryl, et cetera. Plus all your prescription meds.
A few plastic garbage bags, and a couple of smaller bags.
Extra Socks.
Church key, pocket knife, can opener, hex wrench, small bottle of CLP, 1/4 of an old (clean) tee shirt, Boresnake, screwdriver and needlenose pliers.
One zip lock baggie full of almonds, crackers and graham crackers and another full of dried apricots and raisins; an apple a day and maybe a banana or two. No chocolate except for M&Ms as it melts and gets all over everything!

November 2, 2007, 12:03 AM
Use the edge of the stand as a rest; don't shoot free-hand unless you have to. Wait for the deer to stop walking, and then take a good broadside shot. Shoot it on the shoulder or slightly behind the shoulder. Take your time for a good shot. Remember, if you wound it, you have to go after it, and that's no fun.

November 2, 2007, 08:04 AM
Very good advice given so far! I can remember my first hunt - what a boob I was! I can only add that I would try to shoot an animal (your first) as close to your stand as possible - you will have your share of the jitters/buck fever so dont go for the 150 yd shot until you get more experience. Better to get a clean close-in shot. Once you have made your shot - DO NOT get up and chase the deer right away - allow a good half an hour for the deer to bleed out/expire naturally. Their instinct will be to bed down - by chasing they can run for miles - even with a mortal wound! Trcking a wounded deer for 3 hours through a standing cornfield was my first hunt because I violated this rule. Good luck and relax.

Art Eatman
November 2, 2007, 09:21 AM
Good advice, all. I guess a good way to look at it, as to the extra "stuff" folks have recommend, is to make up a box of "What if?" fix-it things to leave in your vehicle for as-needed use. For that matter, throw in an extra box of cartridges. I've known guys to sometimes show up with a really nice rifle and Oops! Nothing to load up with. :D (I carried two rifles with me to hunt camp, one time, but only had one to shoot.)

November 2, 2007, 04:30 PM
Great advice everyone and I really appreciate it.

I sighted in my rifle on Tuesday, so that is already done and ready to go. It looks like the summary of the advice is that I need to just present myself as a new hunter, and then follow the lead of the veterans and what they teach. I can do that, I was raised to respect my elders and I am not a know-it-all. I know I'll be looked at as green and have to prove my ability to conduct myself safely, but I have no worries in that department as I am a safe handler of firearms and I have the four rules burned into my very existence.

I fully expect a lot of ribbing just because I'm young (28) and I was cursed with a babyface that usually gets ribbed anyway.

I'm extremely excited and can't wait to get on the road to head that way.

I'll come back with a post hunt field report for sure!


November 2, 2007, 06:28 PM
Good luck and have fun.

November 2, 2007, 06:51 PM
Man, I wish I was going deer hunting this weekend...I am done for the season already.

Might have to go find some mountain chickens...

November 4, 2007, 10:41 AM
Just don't shoot at anything that crosses your path.. be choosey on what you shoot.. A nieghbor of mine shoots at anything - a couple of years ago he ended up shooting a young fawn barely had the spots off of it, then the mom and the other fawn came out that was with it. I was disappointed in him - He said I seen something move so I shot - No common sense at all!!

Just a rule of mine - I will not shoot a doe that has fawns with it still. Don't know if any of you guys go by a similiar rule or not.

November 4, 2007, 12:48 PM
Yeah, that's probably a good idea, Harley. The does with fawns are usually pretty small, anyway.

November 4, 2007, 02:31 PM
Hang your clothes up outside and leave your shoes/boots outside to remove inside the house scent for at least 24 hours. Take a shower as close as you can to the time you will be hunting. If hunting from a ladder or climbing stand, practice shooting your rifle with your safety harness on--that's how you're going to be shooting it in the field and it feels different, so practice that way. Even if not doing that, shooting with a thick coat and gloves like you're going to be wearing is also applicable.

HE BIGGEST THING IS MINDSET AND EXPECTATIONS. Do NOT go out there with the idea that this will be like shopping. You are out in nature as #1. You will spend the vast majority of your time LOOKING. You will sit dead still for extended periods of time, and as a human being this is and will be very foreign to you--until you deer hunt, you're likely not aware of how much movement and noise a person makes simply by existing. Practice being still by putting quarters on the top of your head, the top of your shoulders, tops of your knees, and the backs of your hands and watch the second hand of a watch tick away each second for 3 or 4 minutes. If those quarters move, you're not being still enough. Do it over again.

November 6, 2007, 02:48 PM
Well I'm back home now and I had a really great time!

It was a strange feeling sitting in a blind with a rifle, watching potential targets walk by without any idea of the potential danger they were in. It was really surreal and at the same time very humbling.

I had ample opportunity to shoot, but in the end I decided instead to observe and get a better feel for the land and its occupants. Call it beginner's luck, but I had a bit of a moment of clarity not 30 minutes in to the evening hunt on the first day I was there. I was sitting in an open, undisguised platform about 20 feet in the air in the middle of a 6 acre clearing covered in scrub brush and very small mesquite trees. The clearing was surrounded by heavy woods, and I was very exposed to anything coming in to the clearing. A mature doe came out into the far end of the clearing from me, and I was able to get a very clear view of her through the scope. Strangely enough, she began walking straight towards me, completely oblivious to my presence and I made the decision to shoot when she was about 40 yards out. For some reason I hesitated seeing as she was still approaching, and so I waited until she got closer in to give a better chance of not missing (I was nervous afterall). 35 yards, 30, 25, and she gave me a full side profile that was the shot I had been waiting for. Right as I put my finger on th trigger and started to pull, I saw a tiny fawn about 5 yards behind her. I sighted in on him to try and get an idea of his age, and I would be shocked if he was even 3 months old. I realize that's highly unlikely and unusual for there to be fawn that small this late in the season, but he was very small and his shoulder would probably have fallen almost below my knee. I was amazed to have them approach to within 5 feet of my position, and I simply watched them graze for awhile before they eventually moved on into the other side of the clearing.

I decided not to shoot her because I didn't feel it was right to kill a doe that still had a fawn dependent on her. I'm so new to this that I didn't know at the time how long the fawn was dependent on a doe (I do now, I asked) and I didn't want to doom the fawn by removing it's only source of protection. I was a little angry a few minutes after they cleared out of my area as I heard a shot in very close proximity to me and I thought for certain it was the deer I let go. I am almost certain I am correct because I saw the fawn 2 days later wandering around confused without the doe. It had to be the same guy because he was so little and his movements were similar to a lost child trying to find a parent. I watched him, and eventually he left as well.

All of the advice above turned out to be helpful and I really appreciate it. I saw a LOT of deer, and I had ample opportunity to shoot, but didn't. I think my first experience with the doe & fawn made me think long and hard about not just shooting the first deer I saw, but to be very selective and choose an animal that meets what I am looking for. I was hunting with meat as the goal, and in that pattern of thought I realized it was worth being picky to find a healthy animal, and probably a medium sized buck rather than a doe.

One thing that was kind of funny, but scary at the time. I was walking back in after the evening hunt, and a skunk meandered out onto the trail not 5 feet in front of me. He whipped around and got his tail up and started coming forward as I was rapidly backing up trying to get away. At some point in the 5 hour (1.5 seconds) ordeal, I realized I had a rifle and whipped it around and shot him right as I am sure he was about to spray me. It felt like it all took forever to happen, but in reality from the time I saw him until it was over lasted maybe 2-3 seconds. Training really does help! I had the rifle unchambered and on safety (bolt-action) and I managed to remember to rack a round and take it off safety as I was bringing it up to fire. Lucky for me, as that would have been a BAD way to start the weekend! A few of the guys said this was odd skunk behavior and theorized he may have been rabid. Whatever he was, skunk and .30-06 do not get along!

Overall, it was a great trip and I had a really soul cleansing good time. I'm going to try to go back over Thanksgiving weekend and if I see the same number and quality of deer then, I'll almost definitely take at least one buck and maybe a doe also.

Glad I could share my experience and thanks to everyone for reading and giving advice.


November 6, 2007, 06:34 PM
SS - Thanks for sharing. It is good to see the world as new again and bring back all those "firsts".

I think you made a well reasoned decision on the doe. Bottom line is you have to live with your choices, so it ain't for me to say it was good or bad.

If I was just looking to fill a freezer and could shoot either sex, I would go for a big doe. That medium buck might grow up to be muy grande some day...

Did the skunk stink explode when the -06 hit it??????

I almost hit one while on my ATV last year on a logging road. it was dark and I did not see it until it was too late - I just swerved around and hit the gas...

November 7, 2007, 10:02 AM
No, surprisingly the stink bag didn't get hit. I was really worried about that because I've heard deer don't like skunk any more than we do, and it can cause them to avoid the area.

That would have been a great first day at camp... :o


November 8, 2007, 08:00 AM
Interesting story; yes, you did the right thing; that karma will come back around someday and provide you a monster buck. Thanks for sharing. :)

November 8, 2007, 09:34 AM
Hey, at least you got a skunk on your first time out. :D :D That's classic. :D

November 8, 2007, 10:54 AM
Are you having a shoulder mount done on the skunk???

November 8, 2007, 11:21 AM
And don't forget to make a skunkskin hat, with the tail hanging down a la Danny Boone. :p

November 8, 2007, 06:37 PM
Hehe, actually I let Mr. Skunk stay exactly where he stopped rolling. No need for skunk gear for me!

-SS :eek:

November 8, 2007, 07:37 PM
Sounds like except for the skunk you had a really good time and learned a lot. :)

I forgot to mention that one thing a person may want to bring is a bird identification book. Lots of songbirds fly through in the fall and winter.

That doe with the fawn this late in the season is a sign of a serious imbalance in the sex ratio of the herd. According to all that I've read the only reason that fall deer births occur is because most of the mature bucks are killed off so the few who remain can't cover all the does during the first few estrus cycles. Another sign of problems is seeing a lot of does with singleton fawns and not twins. A healthy well fed doe will usually have twins except if she's very young or very old or if the coyotes have gotten one.

You mentioned that you were on an open stand. I do hope that one of the more experienced hunters mentioned to you that it is considered bad practice to sit in an open stand without a safety harness. Nothing like taking a short nap and a long fall. :(