A lot of people laugh when I tell them where I hunt. I usually do not hunt much further than my own back yard. I think I'm a lot like most casual hunters, I love to hunt, I do not have a ton of money and because of my job, I don't hunt nearly as much as I'd like.
I've been given advice from every deer hunter in the world. Always approach from down wind of a buck etc. etc. Never let them see you come into the woods.
My objective is to share with you what I consider to be the 10 commandments of a deer hunter.
1. Get in the woods 30 minutes before sunrise.
I don't care how you get in the woods. Some say run because the deer get curious, I don't believe that so much. I think the reason people believe that is because while running they spook/confuse the deer into not knowing where you are. Getting in the woods earlier than other hunters WILL give you an advantage.
2. Always wear cover scent.
My grandfather believes that it doesn't matter what you smell like, deer are curious and like to find out what that smell is. I'm a skeptic, I believe that you WILL increase your chance of landing a deer by covering your human scent.
3. Always bring a knife.
You may think this commandment is petty, but try to gut a nice buck on a cold November morning without a knife. Honest to god, the first deer I ever got was when I forgot my knife at home. I was bow hunting near my job site in Sturbridge, MA and sure enough at 7:50 am the buck came to my stand and I got him. Imagine the horror an hour later when I found the buck lying dead in his tracks and no knife in my pocket.
4. Ignore the moon.
I'm not saying the experts are wrong, but listen if you're relying on the moon to be right before you go hunting, you have WAY too much time on your hands. The experts are always talking about the moon phase and how it aligns with deer feeding habits. Well that's true... but when is the last time you saw a deer hunter LEGALLY in the woods at night... Why not stick to the rules of the hunt, come in 30 minutes before dawn, leave 30 minutes after sunset. If you want to increase your chances of landing a deer stay in the woods all day, following moon phases is a waste of time.
5. Use trail cameras with caution.
One of the biggest bucks I've ever seen in Holland, MA was a 14 point beautiful mature buck. I caught him on camera at 5:45 am two years ago, You could see he was clearly frightened by the camera noise (which was barely audible). Don't risk it, the best way to know if deer are in the area is to check scrapes and rubs.
6. Don't move in your stand.
Deer don't look up, so they say. Well that's true too for the most part. Unfortunately, they don't have to "look up" when they're 50-100 yards away, any movement will make them nervous.
7. Don't take a fawn.
I know what the argument is, and I don't care. If you're going to take a fawn and tell me "it's all I saw" all season, you're pathetic. I'm an avid hunter and if all you're seeing are fawn you're a terrible hunter and you're not being patient. Every hunter worth his weight knows where there are fawns there are mature does. Wait for one of those.
8. Go to the bathroom before you leave the house on every hunt.
Here's another one of those "duh" commandments but trust me when you're 20 feet up in a tree clinching your cheeks you're going to wish you followed this commandment.
9. Always tell someone where you're hunting.
If you ask me, I'll tell you straight up. Don't go hunting alone. Not because you're not careful, not because I'm afraid you might get lost or hurt or tired or shot at. I want you to bring someone hunting. I personally ask my grandfather every single time I go hunting. Sometimes he comes sometimes he doesn't. There are few better ways to spend time with a loved one than to take him/her hunting. If you can't bring a friend or family member, be sure to leave a note where you're hunting JUST in CASE.
10. Always say a prayer before heading into the woods.
I use to laugh when my grandfather would sit in his pick-up truck and say a little prayer he called his hunters prayer which went something to the effect of "let me arrow be straight and the kill be swift" ... something as simple as this may make a difference in your next hunt. It's a good code of ethics, if you don't know for sure you're going to kill the deer, DON'T shoot.