New to hunting, what can I do to increase my chances of bagging a deer?


December 15, 2013, 04:16 PM
Hey guys,

Well, over the weekend, I picked up a deer tag, borrowed my dads truck, and took my bow out into the Olympic National Forrest.

I didn't get anything, but I had a lot of fun, and going to try to get out there every day I can for the rest of the season.

What are some things I can do to maximize my chances of getting a deer, from the standpoint of just not scarring them away? I think yesterday I was too impatient, and moved around too much, instead of just slowly working my way into a good spot, and parking my butt there for an hour or two. Since I wasn't sure how far from the truck I was going to be, I brought a day pack with some food, water, and a few other things that I probably wouldn't bring this time.

Sorry for the rambling. I guess my questions can be summed up with:

- Where are some good places to wait for the deer? Am I looking for lots of sign like droppings and where they rubbed up against a tree? Trying to find their food/water?

-My backpack is sort of a dark silver color. Should I try to find something else? Wrap it in a dark green shirt? Am I over thinking the color issue?

- As far as food, what are some of the things you guys like to eat when you're hunting? I'm at a loss here because I try to eat healthy, but don't want to carry a cooler around for grilled chicken? Just looking for some suggestions.

Thanks guys,

Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

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December 15, 2013, 04:40 PM
You gotta be where the deer are, or where they're gonna be. Seems obvious, but it can't be overstated - if you're where they were, they might come back, but unless you're where they are, or where they're gonna be, all you're gonna look at is tracks and poop.

And if you're gonna ambush 'em, you gotta learn to be still. Like, a cat waiting for a mouse to peek out of its hole, still.

December 15, 2013, 04:41 PM
think yesterday I was too impatient, and moved around too much

I think you nailed it right there.

The longer you can sit still in one spot, doing absolutely nothing without going insane, the better your chances are. Me, I can't do any of those things.

December 15, 2013, 04:49 PM
Blacktails like the edges of clearcuts. They will be bedded on a south facing slope nearby, maybe getting out midday for awhile, then showing up near dusk. They like to bed in sword ferns and salal. Once you find this area, try to be above them early, and on their route to the clearcuts in the evening.

December 15, 2013, 04:56 PM
Water sources are not an issue there. Where are you located, east or west?

December 15, 2013, 05:00 PM
Buy your local hunting magazines…read them cover to cover. Find online forums that discuss hunting in your region. Talk to guys at the local hunting shops…when you buy gear from them ask them some questions about what others are doing to succeed. As a new hunter you have a lot to learn…the good news is that it's mostly a very fun learning curve. At times it can be challenging and even humbling…but fun all the way.

Read, read, read…learn, learn, learn. I always tell people you can't kill 'em from the couch. Get out there as much as you can, the field is where you pick up experience.

December 15, 2013, 05:24 PM
Get up a tree you will increase ur odds big big time! (Research it, it can be dangerous,use safety belt!
Play wind for sure!
Trail mix/jerky But what JSPN and the other fellows said FOR SURE!!!!!!
Don't pee around ur hunting spot go when u leave truck!
Find a comfy tree stand on criags list/borrow/make sure national forrest rules lets you use one?
Even on ground see rules on clearing yourself shooting lanes the deer will travel down.
Range a few spots so you know ur yardage,read,read,and read more,find a friend that know's some already,Thats allways fun and safe!

December 15, 2013, 05:33 PM
I gotta disagree with getting in a tree!

If you want to see deer get OUT of the trees and into a blind. Pack a comfortable chair, lots of snacks and a book or smartphone. Basically set yourself up in enough comfort that you can climb in that blind in the morning and not leave till after dark.

I think you'll find yourself seeing just as many deer at 11am or 2pm as you will in those "golden hours" after dawn and before dusk. But the main thing is to just be out there as much as possible. With hunting your presence is far more important than any tips or tricks.

December 15, 2013, 06:24 PM
I'm on the west side. The areas I'm looking at are Kitsap and Mason county because they are convenient/close (I live in Kitsap) and out past Port Angeles. I believe the GMUs are 603 and 627.

I'll try and hunt out in Tahuya tomorow morning, and then head back up to PA on Friday. In the meantime, any suggestions on what to read? I'll have a little bit of time while I'm on shift at the fire station this week, and might as well learn some stuff.

Thanks again guys!

December 15, 2013, 06:31 PM
Go down to the gas station and buy this:

December 15, 2013, 06:57 PM
Let's be realistic. You are hunting on public land, with a bow. The numbers vary considerably, but the odd's are against you on public land hunts vs private property. Many of the places where I hunt on public land have historic hunter success numbers of under 5%. One of my favorite spots is under 1%, but those who do take something usually get a monster. Even the better places are around 25%. What you experienced is normal. Public land hunters do good to take one deer every 2-3 years in many places.

December 15, 2013, 07:36 PM
I am not a bowhunter, but have shot many blacktails at 25 yards or less on public land. The deer are there, find them and ambush while they travel.

December 15, 2013, 07:43 PM
I'll try and hunt out in Tahuya tomorow morning,
That is a name that I haven't heard in a while, used to fish that a bit for Steelhead.

December 15, 2013, 07:44 PM
Deer like to travel or hang out where the hardwoods meet the pines or travel fence lines too. Good place for an ambush. Once the season is underway, expect the unexpected and during the rut, hunt the does.

December 15, 2013, 09:11 PM
Also, anyone know any good places in Kitsap County to get after the deer? I'm not looking for any "Secret spots" so much as just a chunk of woods where I might have a shot.


Vincent Price
December 16, 2013, 08:13 AM
Talk to guys at the local hunting shops…when you buy gear from them ask them some questions about what others are doing to succeed.

in my experience that gets you nowhere. There are some experienced hunters there of course who may give you some good hints. But there is also a lot of "experts" who don't know anything but will give you loads of advice. For a beginner it is hard to tell them apart.

It's hard to give advice across the ocean because you probably have very different hunting conditions but here is what I would do. Admittedly most of it has already been said in this thread.

find a spot along a "game pass" (sorry don't know the correct English word). Meaning a trail where you can find several tracks that look like game is frequently using it.
wait there out of the wind. Meaning that the wind should come from the game pass to you. The wind is in my experience the most important factor. Stay there. Patience is the key here.
Make as little noise as possible and move as little as possible. If you do move, do it slowly. No jerking, fast movements.
A blind and/or getting up in a tree can be very helpful to get out of the wind and to avoid getting spotted by the deer.
Sitting in ambush is usually easier than walking around trying to spot deer befor it spots you. In Germany we have a saying "one who walks a lot to find the deer sees a lot of deer. One who sits a lot in ambush shoots a lot of deer."
Walking is of course more exciting but for a beginner I would recommend to wait for them at a game pass.

December 17, 2013, 09:42 AM
Welcome to the jungle! haha anyways blacktail deer are some of the most illusive and sneaky critters ive seen around, easiest way i found to hunt them is be in a clearcut around 8am thats about the time they start moving into the timber, Patience and moving slow is the key to the blacktail game. Im in southwest wa and cant offer any spots to hunt up there but if you find yourself down here let me know.

Shanghai McCoy
December 17, 2013, 09:50 AM
Be patient and don't expect it to be easy... enjoy the experiance.

December 17, 2013, 08:58 PM
I'd definitely advise you to bring water to drink, an apple and some jerky (eventually that will be from your previous deer! :) ) and then remember the more slow you move and still you sit, the less food you need. Hunt hungry anyway, it sharpens your senses.

December 21, 2013, 09:41 AM
Thanks guys!

I was looking at the calander last night, and it looks like I probably won't be able to get out there much more this season. I might be able to squeeze in one more day. On the plus side, that gives me a chance to uprade the string/cams on my bow, increase the poundage, and keep working on my shooting skills.

December 21, 2013, 01:37 PM
We used to run into a fair number of deer while grouse hunting in the national forest north of Olympia.

December 21, 2013, 09:21 PM
When moving....stop, look and listen. Repeat.

Don't worry about colors of clothes or items, it's not as important as being still when there are animals around.

December 22, 2013, 10:42 AM
i also advise you to read "my first deer" (or some such title) in the hunting section posted by "trent." If you shoot at something, learn from his mistakes and wait a while before looking for it... also learn from his tenacity, if you have to strangle it, strangle it!

Tony k
December 23, 2013, 12:21 AM
be as silent and stealthy as possible. For most of us who aren't ninjas, that means staying still and working the wind.

Spend as much time out there as you can. Get to know the area you are hunting in during the off-season.

I hunt almost exclusively on national forests like you are describing. I've found that the further away you are from an open road, the fewer other hunters you'll encounter.

Don't feel bad if you don't get one this first year. Most successful hunters get that way through dedication and experience.

Mostly, don't listen to people on the internets

December 23, 2013, 01:31 AM
I know nothing about black-tail deer.

*But do they have a rut / breeding season this time of year like white-tail??
*Or scrapes where the bucks like to mark and show how viral they are??
*Do they have established deer trails between water & food?
*Do they poop in the woods where you can find tracks and scat piles??

Without at least finding some of that stuff real soon through scouting for sign?
And then setting up on a trail or scrape?

No deer for you with a bow on public land this year!

Walking around looking for one and finding one is about as likely as finding a unicorn.

They will either smell, see, or hear you coming way before you can get in bow range.
That's how the stay alive to reproduce.


December 25, 2013, 06:30 AM
Read. Learn. Don't learn from guys on TV. Learn from locals, relatives, friends. Like one poster said, "you can't kill'em from the couch". As far as scent control, I think it's crap. Just my opinion but it's based on many kills and learning from others. If you smoke, smoke in the woods. Smoke is natural. And deer are inherently curious. I kill deer on public land every year. I'm a smoker and I ONLY archery hunt. Don't leave your butts though. If you have to pee, then pee. If #2 is calling, go. Many people kill deer with their (the hunter's) pants around their ankles.

As far as sitting still, again I think that depends on the day. On a calm day, absolutely. On a windy day, go walking. But keep your eyes sharp, ESPECIALLY on your way out of the woods. Don't take that arrow off the string until you are at your vehicle. Not within eyesight, AT it. I missed a monster this year because 30 yards from my truck I took the arrow off. Another 10 steps and there he was not 20 feet from my truck.

I stalk with the sun at my back. Makes me harder to see and the deer easier to see. Hunting the wind is important. But not so much as some would make you believe. Have killed and seen killed MANY deer from the downwind side.

And most importantly, don't put pressure on yourself. Enjoy being out there. Try to be thankful we have this freedom.

*Disclaimer: All my research/experience is based on heavily hunted public land in Oklahoma and Arkansas. What works well here may not work where you are. Except the not putting pressure on yourself and enjoying this freedom. That's universal.

December 25, 2013, 07:41 PM
First of all, you have to be proficient with your bow, muzzleloader, handgun, or rifle. When shot time comes, everything has to be on autopilot. This is a prerequisite.

Next, you have to be transparent in the woods. Be thorough in scent control. You don't want to be smelled, seen, or heard. And eating in a stand is a nono. Food smells. Learn to hunt hungry. Realize you'll never see a deer downwind except for the few seconds you see them running away...

I like to elevate myself for improved visibility, and to remove myself from a deer's typical line of sight. I have been successful in ground blinds, but you just can't see as far normally.

Know where the deer are. Pattern their movements, but not during hunting season.

And don't apply too much pressure to your favorite spots. That means don't go there unless you're hunting, and don't do that more than once a week max.

Be part of the woods and enjoy the experience. And most of all, be patient!

December 26, 2013, 05:14 AM
As a comparison of posts 26 & 27 indicates, there's no single truth where it concerns hunting advice. What works for some doesn't work for all.

December 26, 2013, 09:54 PM
Scout around. If you're not seeing sign like rubs, scrapes and beds, you're not in the right place. Blacktails like the edges between open areas and dark cover. Learn what they like to eat, also.

Still hunting is a learned skill, requiring practice, but most anyone can learn it quickly. Walk into the wind, slowly, 5 or ten steps at a time. Keep scanning your surroundings at all times, so that you are aware of your footing and all else around you. After several steps, stop. Swivel your head in slow motion, use your eyes, ears and nose. yes, you can smell a buck before, during and after a rut. Several more steps, stop and observe 360 degrees. Step over or walk around obstructions carefully. You'll be surprised at how much game a very small bush can hide.

If you can move without startling the birds and squirrels, you're doing well. Don't expect to see much more than a small portion of a deer at any one time. Look for small bits, and tiny flashes of movement. Compact binocs are handy in woodlands. Be sure of your target.

December 26, 2013, 11:54 PM
I've always hunted in-place in my neck of the woods. When I was a kid, we never hunted over feeders, but we did hunt intersecting trails from tree blinds. The wind would determine which blind we sat, and my ability to be still and quiet were really the only determining factors for success. It usually entails several hours of boredom, with a massive jolt of adrenalin when something decent walks by.

Now we hunt deer over feeders, so selecting the right animal and avoiding an errant double are really the biggest concerns.

Probably very little of this applies to your neck of the woods, except for the quiet and downwind part.

I've tried my hand at occasionally stalking, but waiting for deer to come to me has always proven more successful.

If you can, as others have suggested, identify the signs of activity, stake out a good vantage point and see what comes by.

Wolfgang james
December 28, 2013, 12:32 PM
I have always played the wind, but have found even if the wind changed its not a big deal. Just a few wks ago I had a doe blowing at me from down wind but as long as I didn't move she just walked on. I do find that it is a pain in the rear to put out your smoke and cap the pepsi before picking up the bow to shoot that foolish critter that was just thinking hum I wonder what that smell is :evil:

December 28, 2013, 12:47 PM
Our deer have been far more skittish this year. I have a couple of blinds, one was set up more for off-season pigs than deer, and is placed due north of that feeder. Unfortunately, all the best deer have been at that blind according to the trailcam. With a stiff north wind, I knew sitting that blind would likely be fruitless. Sure enough, as soon as animals approached, that nose was in the air and they were gone.

This late in the season, our doe are all congregating together while all the bucks are hitting the corn. Apparently they don't like fighting off the bucks with twins already cooking in their belly. I have two doe tags to fill, and the one field they are known to congregate can only be approached from the north. Same deal; we stalked up on that field several times only to see bounding flags at 300+ yards. The thickets on the other three sides are so dense, getting through them is nearly impossible.

My son and I are heading back up after church in the morning to take our last two does. I'm hoping for a southerly wind.

December 28, 2013, 01:31 PM
Find a copy of "Hunting Open-Country Mule Deer" by Dwight Shuh. I'm self taught deer hunter and after I read that book, I thought, Crap, I've been doing it all wrong. And I was. Most of the deer literature is eastern/white tail stuff. This guy was an archery hunter, and started in the early days, but is really using a modern system. Find a copy and read it cover to cover. Its that good.

December 28, 2013, 02:02 PM
There is a huge difference between open country mulies and brush-bound blacktails.

December 28, 2013, 04:25 PM
It's funny you should mention that. I am in the woods as I type this. 10 minutes ago I shot a buck at 15 yards, downwind, smoking, from the ground. Public land. Scouts honor. If I didn't need the battery life, I'd post a pic. But gotta go. My bro just got his second one. That's 3 today. Gotta say, it's been a good day.

December 30, 2013, 10:58 PM
Find a spot and stay there. Be as still as possible. Stay there all day. Stalking or still hunting takes a lot of practice, especially with a bow. Real life isn't like you see on TV most of the time, but sometimes you get lucky.

December 31, 2013, 12:49 AM
In woods hunting, I was advised to cover no more than 100yds/hour.
Sounds crazy doesn't it?

Watch your step, so as not to make noise: breaking twigs, brushing up against thorns, crunching frozen snow.

I'd been moving too fast and therefore spooking them ahead of myself, seeing white flags bouncing away. If I'd gone slow, I'd have seen some of those WTs before they saw or heard me.

When you stop, listen carefully and you might hear them bleating, or running/bounding. Look for scrapes on the ground, for small conifers that have had the bark scraped off them by bucks.

Next year I'll slow down even more: take a couple steps, stop, slowly glass all around, take another step or two, glass and listen. And so on. You have to glass for parts of a deer, like an ear, an eye, part of a leg, rather than looking for a deer standing in a classic broadside pose.

I simply gotta be more patient.

December 31, 2013, 03:31 AM
I deer hunt in South Dakota, and consider myself fairly good at it, having taken at least one buck for each year I've hunted, and I've never missed a season since age 13 (36 now). AS much as people praise stand hunting, or waiting and letting deer come to you, my 2013 whitetail was the first deer I've taken with the "sit and wait" approach in 23 seasons. I've had deer "driven" to me while sitting and waiting and have harvested deer that way, but thats a group effort and not a solo hunt. I'm much more into spot and stalk, or still hunting sort of like splattergun described. I don't worry about scent control any more than using the wind to my advantage when possible. I've never hunted deer elsewhere, so I don't know how well my success would carry over elsewhere, but I know what works for me in the area I hunt inc(and I hunt both Mule deer and whitetails, as we are fortunate enough to have both on the "home ranch").

January 1, 2014, 10:36 PM
Scent control for the average hunter is way over blown. Deer will smell you if you are down wind of them. That's just the way it is.

Spot and Stalk works best with a firearm. You don't need to get so close for a shot.

Yes to quietly moving around on windy days if that is what you want to do. But still move slowly and pay attention. Take a couple steps and look for deer. Take a couple more and look again. Make as little noise as possible.

January 2, 2014, 09:36 PM

100 yds an hour sounds about right....IN to the wind.

January 2, 2014, 09:46 PM
thanks for confirming that

January 3, 2014, 04:39 PM
Am I over thinking the color issue? Yes.

As far as food, what are some of the things you guys like to eat when you're hunting? Peanut butter, granola.

The numbers vary considerably, but the odd's are against you on public land hunts vs private property. Exactly. The public land I hunted this year was roughly 1% success ratio. :( Keep putting enough miles and effort in during the rut, and eventually you will blunder into something. (Or a deer will blunder into you.)

January 9, 2014, 08:48 AM
If you are on Facebook, check out 'Blacktail Insanity'.

January 10, 2014, 01:35 PM
Anyone ever try the "I can't stop coughing and wheezing" deer call? Seems to work quite well...not that I recommend trying to catch a cold during deer season. :)

This year I was sitting down watching a holler. I was getting annoyed by the many squirrels and couldn't stop coughing and wheezing.. Finally, I said to myself...forget it (PC version)....I stood up and took 3 steps..then I heard a blow and rapid footsteps away... My wife later informed me of the monster that flew by her right about that time....

January 10, 2014, 04:01 PM
A deer can't hide his tracks and terds and it is very easy to tell what is recent activity in regards to that sign. I have found the easiest way to hunt on public land is to get away from the truck late in the season as the early hunters will have them pushed back a bit. Look for the most obvious trails near food and get back from the food at least a few hundred yards. If you can't find obvious food then just set up near where two trails intersect or are within 20 yards of each other. The thicker the better. Forget the open woods this late in the season. You need to be in the thickest part of the woods. Try not to cross over the trails you are trying to shoot because I have watched bucks smell my tracks four days after I left them. As far as food is concerned Jerky is great but expensive, trail mix and energy bars are also good. Remove them from the loud wrappers and put them in quiet ziploc bags. I make ground blinds on public land with dead trees and leaves. Make them thick where the deer can't see through them. They get used to them and pay them no attention. Draw your bow when they pass behind a tree. Good luck.

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