Whitetail 101

Whitetail 101: A Comprehensive Guide For Whitetail Deer Hunters

Welcome to the Whitetail 101 homepage, this is a comprehensive guide for whitetail deer hunters. We are proud to publish this guide to everything whitetail and whitetail hunting. We spent an enormous amount of time writing and compiling this guide based on our experiences. This is all unique content that you will not find anywhere else. This guide is setup for both the beginner and the more seasoned whitetail deer hunter. This is more than the basic whitetail hunting tips or deer hunting tips you find elsewhere. It begins with the basics and ends with the best part, venison. In short, the goal of this guide is teach you how to hunt deer. We hope this guide helps you be successful in harvesting your trophy buck. The Whitetail 101 content will continue to grow as we do, so check back often.

Section #1 – A Year In The Life Of A Whitetail

There are three critical elements to a whitetail deer’s survival: nutrition, water, and cover. Learn how you can use these elements to improve your property for better whitetail management, to selecting better stand or blind sites, and to increase your chances of bagging a trophy whitetail this year!

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Section #2 – Key Elements To Whitetails Survival

Section #2 – Cover and Bedding

Whitetail deer choose bedding areas and cover based on five different factors. Each plays a specific role depending on the deer’s priority at the moment. Learn how to better identify prime bedding and cover areas whether you’re on foot or online.

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Section #2 – Food and Nutrition

Food is one of the largest drivers of a deer’s movement. Understanding what food they target and when will help you to better choose food plots and hunting spots, no matter the season. Whether you’re pre-season scouting, filling tags, or shed hunting, knowing what food deer will be after is key to your success.

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Section #2 – Water

One of the least considered elements of a deer’s activity is that that revolves around water. Like most animals, deer use water for sustenance, but also as a travel corridor or safety escape. Here’s what you need to know about whitetails and water…

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Section #3 – Whitetail Deer Senses

Section #3 – Whitetail Deer Sense of Smell

A deer’s sense of smell is their most powerful form of defense – simply put, you can’t beat a whitetail’s nose. It does not matter if you’re an experienced hunter or new to the game, understanding the science behind their nose is important. In this section we go over important elements of a deer’s nose as well as the results of conditioned behavior and how it affects the deer in your area. 

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Section #3 – Whitetail Deer Vision Overview

You’ve probably heard that whitetail deer don’t have great vision. The truth is, what they lack in clarity, they make up for in their field of view. Learn about what whitetails actually see, and what you can do to better hide from them. 

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Section #3 – Whitetail Deer Hearing

Deer have about the same hearing as most humans. What makes it a better tool for deer is their pivoting ears that can better capture sound. What makes it a problem for hunters is their conditioned behavior. Learn about the most important factors of a whitetail deer’s hearing.

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Section #4 – The Rut

Section #4 – The Rut Cycle

You’ve definitely heard of it, you know it’s an exciting time to be in the field, but what is the whitetail rut actually all about? Most new hunters will go out anytime in November assuming it’s the rut and that the deer will be running around mad, only to be disappointed by silence and stillness. Learn what the rut actually is, how long it typically lasts, and how you can estimate this year’s rut in your area to better your chances of bagging a big rutting buck.

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Section #4 – Signposts (Rubs and Scrapes)

Many new hunters would be surprised to know that deer rely on scent and visual cues rather than sound to communicate leading up to the rut. There are a few main ways both bucks and does will mark territory, leave a “calling card”, or just get their scent out into the woods. Learn what these signposts are, what they mean, and how you can utilize them to improve your chances.

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Section #5 – Travel & Terrain

Section #5 – Transition & Staging Areas

Whitetail deer use different areas to feed and bed. The transition or staging zones between these areas are where hunters can really be effective. Learn how to identify the different deer zones, how they use them to travel, bed or feed, and how you can use these zones on your next hunt.

Topics covered in this section: Transitions zones, Forest/Field zones, Conifer/Deciduous Zone, Clear Cuts/Forest Zone, and Staging Areas

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Section #5 – Corridors, Funnels, Pinch Points and Draws Overview

Whitetails prefer to move on the path of least resistance and with the best view. We’ll identify some of the geological and natural formations and conditions that make for the best whitetail travel corridors and how you can use them for your next stand set-up.

Topics covered in this section: Corridors, Funnels, and Pinch Points.

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Section #6 – Scouting

Section #6 – E-Scouting for Whitetails

It’s a new digital age, and that applies to hunting as well. With more people having more limited time on their hands, it’s becoming common practice to use apps and tools like Google Maps or Onx Maps to scout for hunting spots. In this section we’ll cover some of the best ways you can utilize these tools to find new hunting areas based on topography, vegetation, and water sources. We’ll also touch on the supplementary work required to ensure you don’t strike out come hunting season.

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Section #6 – Utilizing Trail Cams

Trail cameras are another new (or at least improving) tool for hunters. Not only does it feel like Christmas when you check the memory card, but it’s also a great way to inventory animals on your hunting property and identify key areas of movement. In this section I even share my own trail camera strategy with you to get you better acquainted with the technical side of camera set-up.

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Section #6 – Patterning Mature Whitetail Deer

This is what every veteran hunter has tried to do at some point: after catching a buck of a lifetime on their camera or during pre-season scouting, they spend hours upon hours trying to pattern its movement. Sometimes they find success and at least feast their eyes on the buck, other times all that work is done to no avail. In this section we cover some of the best ways you can at least attempt to pattern a mature whitetail using some basic tools and knowledge.

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Section #6 – Topo Maps for Whitetail Deer

In addition to satellite maps, topographical maps (topo maps) are great ways to identify key features of the terrain you hunt to better determine where the deer will bed and travel. In this section we go over some of the most important topo features found in the Midwest such as saddles, ridges, ridge points, and cover funnels. 

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Section #6 – Boots on the Ground

Although e-scouting is definitely the most popular form of scouting these days, nothing beats getting outdoors with boots on the ground scouting. This is also a very important tactic to use in addition to e-scouting as areas can change fairly dramatically before maps are updated.

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Section #7 – Gear

Section #7 – Treestands (Pros & Cons of Various Types)

A tried and true method of evading the whitetail deer’s’ senses is treestand hunting. In this section we go over the most popular types of tree stands, where they are best suited, and what they entail in terms of hauling and set-up. Remember: safety should always be your first priority when using any kind of stand.

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Section #7 – Treestand Safety 

DO NOT SKIP THIS SECTION. Every year people get seriously hurt or die from improper use of a tree-stand. We created this brief but important summary on how to ensure you’re safe and comfortable in your stand at all times.

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Section #7 – Tree Stand Placement Diagrams

Proper placement of your treestand is essential for a good hunt. It’s important to know where you’ll be set-up, what the ideal conditions will be for that location, and how you’ll get in and out of the stand. Without this planning, you’ll likely spend your hunting season moving stands rather than hauling deer. Learn some basic placement tips in this section.

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Section #7 – Blinds & Ground Setups

set-ups vary greatly to appeal to the local hunting population. Learn how to best utilize your ground blind and how to conceal it to ensure you stay hidden and increase your chances of success this hunting season.

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Section #7 – Clothing & Layering

You don’t need the best camo, but you definitely need the best materials. After years of experience, I’ve learned what is most comfortable and effective when it comes to deer hunting in the Midwest. Read this section to learn how you can improve your hunting experiences with better clothing and layering.

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Section #8 – Hunting Strategies

Section #8 – Hunting The Wind, Scent Control Guide

One of the most challenging things to do when hunting whitetails is playing the wind. Not only is it fairly unpredictable, but it seems to change down every trail and at every change in topography. Even veteran hunters fall victim to the wind and the ever powerful whitetail nose, but with the right knowledge, you can up your odds of playing the wind and have a shot at a mature whitetail. In this section we’ll cover thermals, prevailing winds, how deer use the wind and how you can to improve your stand and spot and stalk hunting.

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Section #8 – Reading Whitetail Deer Behavior & Body Language

Whitetail deer communicate to each other using body language more than vocals. Understanding what their behavior is signaling will lead you closer to being able to predict their next move. In this section we’ll cover some of the basic signals, as well as how to respond to them.

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Section #8 – Early Season Strategies

Early season hunting is often underrated because of the bugs, heat, bugs, slower activity, and the bugs. But don’t let this deter you; early season hunting can be one of the best times of the year to get out with your weapon and observe and harvest unpressured deer. In this section we cover some important things to know when opting for an early season hunt.

Topics covered in this section: early season calling, scouting, and time of day.

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Section #8 – Rut Hunting Strategies

It’s really the most wonderful time of the year (sorry Christmas). The whitetail rut in the Western US is famed for its high-energy excitement and activity. We all know it’s probably one of the easiest times of year to hunt whitetails, but there are still some key things you need to know to really up your chances of bagging a trophy buck. 

Topics covered in this section: finding the rutting areas, strategies for the rut, and best times to hunt.

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Section #8 – Late Season Strategies

Didn’t tag out during the rut? No problem. In this section we cover what you need to know to improve your chances of harvesting a whitetail deer in the late season. It will take a lot of patience, but if you truly make the effort you can still tag out on a mature animal in the late season.

Topics covered in this section: challenges and late season strategies.

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Section #8 – Whitetail Calling Overview

Although whitetail deer typically rely on scent and sight to communicate and identify potential danger, they also use vocalizations. In this section we’ll cover some of the basic calls you can use to lure deer in and when to use them.

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Section #8 – Deer Drive / Push Hunting Strategy

If you grew up hunting in the 90’s or early 2000’s, I would bet that you’ve done a deer drive or push hunting. One of the earliest forms of deer hunting, these tactics involve a team of hunters and some very strategic placements. In this section I describe what these tactics entail and how to best set your team up for a successful drive.

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Section #9 – Shot Placement & Field Care

Section #9 – How to Age A Deer in the Field

In recent years, interest in aging deer has become more popular. It’s easiest to identify a deer’s age by their teeth and hoof wear, but seeing as they have to be dead to see that, how can you identify a whitetail’s age on the hoof? In this section we cover some easy ways to estimate a whitetails deer’s age without having to get up close and personal.

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Section #9 – Shot Placement

If you’ve never made a poor shot on a deer, you might not think that shot placement is all that important. However, proper shot placement can make all the difference in how long it takes a deer to expire and even the quality of the meat once it finally does. In this section we’ll cover basic shot placement, but also some important things to know when shooting from different angles or with different weapons.

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Section #9 – Blood trailing Whitetails

More often than not, a deer who has just been shot will run off to “safety” leaving you to follow a (hopefully vibrant) blood trail. In this section we’ll cover some of the most common blood trails and how to determine if your harvest is down or if you should give it some extra time to expire so as to avoid additional stress or worse, the loss of your harvest.

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Section #9 – Field Dressing

Even experienced hunters can have a hard time remembering how to properly field dress a deer, which leads to a big mess or even spoiled meat. In this section we will cover the easiest and most basic way to field dress a deer. Read it, then read it again to ensure you remember what you need to do when the time comes.

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Section #9 – Meat Care & Processing

There are few things more satisfying than processing your own meat. It is important to always take great care when dealing with meat to ensure it doesn’t spoil, but also that you stay safe throughout the process. In this section we cover aging, skinning and cuts, to help you better utilize your harvest and produce less waste.

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Section #9 – How to Score A Deer

A little bragging rights are always fun. Learn how to score your trophy whitetail for more accurate bragging or even the chance at an award! In this section we’ll cover the two official scoring organizations and how you can measure antlers via their methods and systems. 

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Whitetail 101 – Wrap Up

Our hope at 1st Rut is this guide proves to be a useful tool that you use to harvest your next trophy. If you see anything that you would like added to the Whitetail 101: A Comprehensive Guide For Whitetail Hunters let us know through the comments or Contact page.

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