Deer Hunting Basics

The second Saturday in November, close to 400,000 orange-clad hunters will head to the woods for the opening day of the firearms deer season. It's likely that during the firearms, muzzleloader and bow seasons combined, Missouri hunters will harvest about 240,000 deer.

Such big numbers make taking a deer seem easy. Harvest data compiled by the Conservation Department confirms, however, that deer hunting is anything but a sure thing. To harvest that many deer in a few months, Missouri hunters put in about 3 million days of hunting. By the end of the season, 62 percent of firearms hunters and 83 percent of archery hunters won't take any deer at all.

Successful deer hunting results from a mix of planning, perseverance, improvisation and good fortune. The last plays an essential part. Any time you are in the woods, a deer may run or wander within range. The first rule of deer hunting, then, is to hunt as often and as long as possible.

Good luck, however, isn't guaranteed. The only sure way to improve your chances of harvesting a deer is to learn all you can about deer and deer hunting.

Know Your Prey

Deer are prey animals and have evolved an arsenal of abilities and behaviors to avoid predators.

Above all, white-tailed deer are wary. They spend almost every moment trying to see, hear or smell danger.

Deer can spot movement in all directions with only a slight turn of the head, and they can see almost as well at night as they can during the day. Although they are thought to be almost completely color-blind and don't have good depth perception, some people believe they can see ultraviolet light.

Deer are acutely aware of unusual noises. A deer can rotate its ears to focus in on a sound and determine its direction. Deer hear sounds of a higher frequency than can humans. The flicking of a deer's ear responding to a sound seems to alert other deer.

A deer's nose is an amazingly sensitive instrument. It has about 40 times more scent receptors than human olfactory systems, and researchers believe deer are more than 4,000 times as sensitive to odors than people are. Deer use their uncanny sense of smell to locate food and other deer and to alert them to danger. Some people believe that a frightened deer emits an odor that warns other deer.

When deer sense danger, their usual response is to flee or try to