You can hunt whitetails for decades and still learn something new just about every time you sit in the stand. But there are a few basics every beginner bowhunter should know before hitting the field for the first time.
Whitetails have powerful senses. It’s tough to fool a deer’s nose, eyes, or ears. Whenever you’re heading into the whitetail woods, you should wash your clothing with unscented detergent, suds up with scent-free shower products, and consider taking scent-killing spray or an ozone unit with you. To avoid being spotted, you should keep as much of your body and face concealed as possible and minimize movement in your treestand. And don’t allow any metal to clink or your phone to go off — the deer will be long gone before you even knew they were nearby.
Focus on food. You don’t have to set up directly over a food plot or ag field to have success, but you should focus your efforts on areas where food — and even water — sources are nearby. Determine the routes deer are traveling to reach these areas and consider the availability of the food source based on time of year.
Conditions matter. So many factors can impact deer movement — especially during daylight hours — but current weather conditions can help you determine the best times to head to a treestand and where you should set up. Wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, weather fronts — they can all push deer to get on their feet or stay bedded until dark. Even when conditions are prime, it’s important to consider which direction the wind is blowing in relation to how deer are traveling so you don’t spook them.
The rut is a different ball game. While you should still be smart about your scent and setup based on wind during the peak rut, you can get away with a lot more during this time of year. If possible, invest as much time as possible during this brief window when bucks are making stupid mistakes. You have the best odds of a bruiser walking past your stand at noon now more than ever.