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So you want to be a deer hunter: Tips for beginners

By Staff
Oct. 19, 2001
Being young, female or "not the outdoor type" are all categories of folks who are probably somewhat less likely to be lumped into that group dubiously identified as deer hunters than the middle aged male who shuns cocktail parties, piano recitals and televised cooking shows.
But more and more people from the groups that formerly showed little interest in hunting are now coming into the shooting sports, in particular deer hunting. And they are being welcomed by experienced hunters who like seeing others enjoy hunting deer and thus understand what us old timers have been making so much fuss about.
I was talking with friend David Hawkins just last evening about the sore muscles and bones and declining bank accounts that October brings as a result of us who are long in the tooth clearing, bush hogging, disking, liming,
fertilizing and planting green fields. My question was the perennial one of how much does a pound of venison cost. In dollars it is considerable and in sweat and, yes, often some blood, it is a lot.
Worth the cost
Potential deer hunters, do not be discouraged by this observation. Golfers spend wads of money and don't bring home a single ounce of something to eat. Deer hunters write off the physical and economic strain as a labor of love for the animal and the sport. And the ryegrass, oat and clover patches help the deer get through February and aid overall herd health. That is reward enough for most deer hunters/lovers.
Bagging a deer is rewarding, but sitting and watching a half dozen graze your nutritious food plot is too. So as you enter the ranks of deer hunters, be prepared to work for the good of the game in your hunt area. Rabbits and turkeys also like ryegrass. And quail and songbirds get fat on the seeds.
Shooting a deer is the easy part, or at least easily learned.
Starting with equipment, get yourself a rifle that is recommended for deer and that does not kick your molars loose with each shot. You don't need a .300 magnum or a .338 magnum, or any magnum for that matter, to shoot a deer dead. If the big guns thrill you with their power and kick and stroke your ego, then by all means go ahead and use one. I won't criticize a person for punishing himself as long as I know when the thing is going off so I can plug my ears.
Flinching means missing
Be aware that you will likely miss a lot with the big magnums, because you will almost surely flinch at each shot in subconscious anticipation of being jolted. Try a rifle that shoots the cartridge you have in mind before you buy. Failing that, choose a rifle in the .270 power range (.280, 30-06, .308, 7mm 08, etc.) if you are strongly built, believe you can handle stiff recoil and are serious about hunting trophy deer that you might have to shoot at a bad angle in bad light. If you think recoil may be bothersome, try a .243, 6mm, 30-30, 7mm Mauser,etc. or similar cartridge.
Get the best scope sight you can afford and sight the gun in to hit 3 inches above where you are aiming at 100 yards. Listen, smile and nod approvingly at those who tell you to sight in dead center at 100 yards and then go out and sight it 3 inches high. You will then have a long range rifle in case you need it.
Shoot only for the lungs until you get very experienced and decide you know more about shooting deer than the others and opt for risking a miss or flesh-wounding the deer by shooting at the neck or some other small vital part. You don't shoot as accurately from a tree stand as you do from a shooting bench.
Learn everything about your rifle. Everything! And memorize the safety rules that are included with it or are available from most manufacturers, outdoor magazines and other sources. And then apply common sense to enhance your safety habits.
The other basics include staying downwind of where you expect the deer to come, stay on evening stands until the end of legal shooting time and be patient and quiet.
Come join the throngs and get in on the fun.