History of deer hunting games
(Photo taken from: LakesnWoods.com – post card collection)
Before the European settlement, deer was the staple food of Native Americans that lived in Pennsylvania. Deer hunting and predation was another way to control deer population so the habitat can support it.
It was during the European settlement when large carnivores were removed so there will be land for agriculture, and market and subsistence hunting that almost removed deer from the state. The efforts to sustain deer population of the early 1900s came after the total eradication of forests that caused the acquisition of the state forest system. With limited deer pressure to look for deer, the land came to life again, trees and shrubs started to reappear. Simultaneously, deer were being recognized across the state despite of the healthy forage, and their populations grew.
Preparation for hunting
(Photo taken from: Reuters/ Darren Staples)
Acquiring a license
- Acquire a hunting license for firearms
To get an adult license for hunting, you need to have a proof that you previously have an adult license for hunting using firearms in any year since 1976 or have completed a hunter safety course. If an individual does not have proof of previous adult hunting license, there is an affidavit that can be filled out and notarized. Residents need to have a proof of residency when getting a license
- Hunting license for archery
You need to give a proof that you held a bow and arrow for hunting in any year since 1979 or completed the archery education course. An affidavit can be filled out and notarized if you do not have a previous archery license
- Crossbow hunting license
You need to have a valid license for hunting big game. You need to complete an archery hunting education course and a course for crossbow hunting to show that you already held adult licenses for archery and crossbow in the state in any year since 1979. When there is no proof provided, an affidavit can be filled out.
Deer hunting season
(Photo taken from: Reuters/ China Daily)
- Starting 2015-2016 season, every person who purchases a deer tag need to report their hunt, even if they did not catch anything, or did not hunt. For the ones who successfully caught their target, they need to do a report within 30 days after killing deer. Unsuccessful hunters have to report no kill or did not hunt. The reports can be submitted through their website if they have one. The ones who have a tag but did not report would have to pay for a fee.
- Deer species/ method of hunting – For hunting down a hog deer, the open season is from April 1 to April 30 every year and the bag limit is one male and one female. Hunters can go for red deer all year round and there is no bag limit for this. The sambar deer stalking can be done the whole year and no bag limit for this as well. Hound hunting for sambar deer is from April 1 to 30 and November. Except Friday before Easter Sunday until Wednesday after Easter Sunday if in case Easter falls in April. The fallow, chital, and rusa deer can be hunted all year round with no bag limit.
- Managed hunting – You can only apply for one managed deer hunt in a year or else it will lead to disqualification from the year’s drawing and no preference point will be given. There are managed hunts that ask hunters to become part of a mandatory pre-hunt orientation. If you cannot be present at the orientation, do not pursue your application. If in case you apply as one member of a party on the application or as an individual, the drawing chances you have for a managed deer hunt is just like everyone else’s. If in case mobility is limited due to a medical condition, talk to the manager of the area before applying because there are areas that might not have the available access you need so you can consider a different area.
Where to hunt deer
(Photo taken from: Reuters/ Toby Melville)
Do not trespass, so keep in mind that getting a permit does not allow you to trespass. Hunters who trespass are one of the biggest complaints made by landowners. The best rule is that if it is not yours or you are not permitted by the person who owns it, you should not be in the area. This covers getting your deer if it goes beyond property lines. If the injured or dead deer you shot crossed a person’s property, contact the local conservation agent to assist you in retrieving your deer.
- For hunting on private land, you need to purchase your own liability insurance so the landowner will not be held responsible for accidents. Get a certification from bow hunter education and show that you want to improve your skills and knowledge. You can also offer help in maintaining the present state of the land. When you make a kill, share it with the owner of the property. Do not take friends with you without the landowner’s permission.
- Urban area hunting requires you to be mindful because your actions may influence the perception of hunting and other hunters as well. When you are hunting in an urban area, you need to limit your shooting yardage and avoid trespassing; respect the land and landowner. Discretion and mindfulness is needed when placing your tree and choosing a parking space. Use a tarp to cover your deer and when hauling it from where you stand towards your vehicle. The deer should be cleaned in a specific area and bury the gut pile. While hunting, always have a written permission of the owner with you and if there are neighborhood activities around, be ready to pack up right away and head home. There is always another day for this.
- Conservation urban zone hunting – The main goal of the Urban Zones area of the firearms deer season is to lessen the deer population in areas that need it. That is the reason why only deer with no antlers may be hunted. Only a certain number of conservation areas are found within boundaries of the urban zones. Since public areas normally get pressure from heavy hunting, comparatively, only a number of deer may be present in these areas. Due to this, special restrictions may take effect, or the area might be closed to hunting deer during the portions in urban zones.
Deer hunting weapon
(Photo taken from: Reuters/ Michaela Rehle)
How to choose the best rifle for deer hunting
Since there are a lot of options already, I won’t be comparing the rifles for deer hunting being sold today. Instead, I will teach you how to choose the best rifle for you.
- Before anything else, you need to study the area’s hunting legislation. There are areas where rifles are totally illegal or only certain calibers are allowed so make sure that your gun is legal.
After this, you would have to decide on the rifle that fits you and its accessories. In choosing the right deer rifle, there are a few considerations you need to make, like the caliber, size, material, and accessories. The caliber is one of the most important factors and it must be chosen according to what the handler has experienced. Since you are a beginner, a big caliber gun is not yet necessary because that might scare you and drop hunting altogether. What you need is a gun that will not make you deaf for hours and does not have tremendous recoil.
Another thing is the price because hunting can be quite an expensive hobby. You don’t need to invest too much on a rifle until you have found the right one for you. Put more money into buying a scope so you can see the target from a safe distance.
It is recommended that you only use one that has a caliber of .243 or .270. Both are fast, have a good range, and not much recoil is felt compared to a .30-06 or a 7mm mag.
The type of terrain in the area also needs to be considered before buying the gun and the range of shot. Based on this, you would have to take a long or short range shot and the bullet needs to go through different types of vegetation prior to reaching the target.
The modern ones are constructed with composite materials that make them weigh less and not prone to rusting and erosion so if you are not decided yet into buying a special kind of rifle that is right for you, consider this fact.
(Photo taken from: https://thepursuitchannelblog.wordpress.com/tag/hunting-rifles/)
The most used technique when hunting deer is from an elevated position on a tree stand. When you climb about 15 to 20 feet off the ground, everything is in within your control because deer usually do not look up. Naturally, hunting from an elevated position means that you have to be sure about the habits done in the area when it comes to deer hunting. A lot of scouting is needed to know about the routes that the deer takes. You need to use the best deer attractants for the correct spot. Moving away about 10 yards to cover the trail even more is not as simple when you are already on the tree. The result you will get will also be dependent on the wind and as previously mentioned, a sudden move is generally not as easy like being on the ground so wind direction is important. In addition to that, you would have to choose another tree. Some areas that deer consider as home do not have trees that can hold a hunter. This can result to an obvious deer trail or coming across difficult places to hunt.
Hunting from the ground is what others prefer, and they stay on the ground if the condition permits. Staying on the ground is better for windy days. Trees and tree stands are not always safe, but the wind is going to help you remain hidden while you move through the woods. Hunters also prefer the ground if they are looking for a new area during the season – it is not reasonable to give up an afternoon of hunting just to find a new stand location. Go through the terrain searching for sign and the best location for the tree stand and you will probably encounter one or two deer.
8 Mistakes that deer hunters often make
- Hunters tend to neglect minimal public parcels. If a public hunting area has tracts 1,200, 500 and 80 acres, they don’t see potential that they are going to catch deer. The smallest area might be where you will find a deer that everybody’s been ignoring, especially if it is heavily covered and does not have comfortable parking or marked boundaries that drive hunters away.
- Not flexible – There are hunters who do not want to change their location even after a few days of not catching any game. Unless you have current information that a buck is lurking near the area where you are, you need to consider moving to another spot. The game cameras, sightings and tracks will give enough more information. You need to act fast. Bucks will not necessarily remain in one spot. Move to an area with high traffic where there is a lot of land.
- Lack of practice – Going out to a deer stand without enough practice is a common mistake. There are plenty of hunters that definitely practice a lot before opening morning, but other hunters practice less than this or not at all. Weapons tend to shoot differently every year and not being familiar enough with your weapon can cause a bad shot.
- Not enough rattling – Bucks do not fight carefully. A 135-class buck can rip off a 140-inch rack off from an opponent, and then chase him down when he attempts to escape. The fight can be heard from half a mile. Rattling loud will allow you to cover more area and at the same time draw bucks in.
- The right calls are not being used – Stop using a doe bleat call. During this time, bucks only want does that they can breed. A “doe in uterus” call is recommended and maintain your call on the level of the deer. If in case you are on an elevated stand, build your call or do a square call. Provide a line at the bottom of the call with two tails springing from it. Anchor one tail to the group and tie the other one to a ladder. Tie another line to the top of the call and take it onto your stand. Ensure that you put a tape over the hole at the bottom of the call. Pull the line from the stand that will turn the call upright. Once you let go, the can will turn over and you will get a good sound.
- Not noticing the wind – With the scent free outbreak and scent trapping, a lot of hunters are forgetting to go with the wind. This does not mean that scent-free clothing does not work, it is actually highly advised, but you should not entirely depend on it to hide your scent from the deer. Aside from watching your scent, always go with the wind to be sure. Tree stands need to be set up for detecting wind conditions and always have a backup stand for winds that are uncommon. Avoid areas where the wind is not right and you will increase the chances of you seeing a shooter buck next time you are in the area.
- Removing the decoy – A lot of those who go deer hunting get rid of the decoy after archery season or during early gun season. You need to separate the buck away from the does. If a buck sees a doe standing still, he may forget about the one he’s been after all day to check her out. The real deer tail should be screwed onto the decoy horizontally to imitate a doe that is open for breeding.
Trail camera tips
(Photo taken from: http://www.turtlecreekoutfitters.com/2012/10/18/trail-cam-update-sparring-bucks-rubs/)
- Do not get noticed – A dangerous aspect of a trail camera is being overused. A first-timer tend to treat it like a toy. The owner easily gets anxious to see results every day. This will let the deer program the activity of the camera owner more and vice versa.
- Pick the best location – Determining the best location where to put a trail camera can be tricky. Possible locations for trail cameras are major trails or trail junctions, sources of food and water, old road beds, natural clearings, fence crossings, tree stand, gut piles, and carcasses to name a few.
- Deer traffic – Scout for main trails that lead to food and water. See if there are deer tracks in places that are in the muddy bank of a pond or creek, a chosen hard-hit site for mineral in the spring, and a fence line beside a bean field during summer. The primary focus here is to ensure that the set-up is where deer will most likely pass. Keep in mind that if nothing causes the trigger to shoot, no photos will be produced.
- Mounting height – Mounting height will depend on what will be encountered or the target. When hunting deer, hang the camera 26-30” off the ground. The goal is to get the most field of the camera raised at chest height of the animal for more detection and efficiency. On ground level, this is simple, just mount the camera at the chosen height and move it up. If on a steep slope, make sure that the camera’s angle is going with the slope, or adjust mounting height so that the camera can catch a wide field as possible at the chosen height.
- Make a bedding area close to the food source – Shots of shooter bucks always come after 10 pm. This is another predicament for a lot of camera users. It is normally a sign that mature bucks are moving at some distance towards the camera site. Most likely, they are going to spend their day in an area with less pressure or where there will find bedding for a protected area. Providing a better bedding close to the food source will attract bucks to bed closer and appear only a little while before or after dusk. The chances of catching them during hunting season is going to greatly increase.
- Settings of the camera – What you opt for the settings on the camera can impact the success of taking great photos. You will choose the settings according to the current situation you are in. if the camera is positioned high and away from the deer’s main sight, burst or video mode is recommended. Although, if in a set-up that a deer will most likely show up, do not use burst or video mode. Even if infrared is not going to scare deer away, it seems that they are still able to sense it. If the camera is in burst or video mode, the IR flash does not appear for a long time. Another setting to watch out for is the IR sensor setting, if it has this feature. You are going to want sensitivity to be programmed on high for open areas and low when it is in areas that have a lot of brush or grass. You would not want the SD card to be filled up with blank shots in 2 days because the camera was too sensitive.
Deer hunting is a fun and adventurous hobby if you do it right. It takes patience, determination, focus, and practice to kill the buck you have been aiming for. Make sure to acquire license first and fill yourself with information before starting to do anything. You will enjoy the sense of fulfillment you will have after you’ve successfully killed the buck. Take everything into consideration so that your first attempt won’t make you feel like giving up because you neglected important points.