Five Tips for the Novice Deer Camper

When you are out for the first time deer hunting, you have to rely on your own knowledge. There are plenty of situations that you can prepare beforehand in the camp. Below, I will show three of these.

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Make fire for night-time

An overnight fire shouldn’t be very hot, because it will burn out quickly while everyone roasts… and then freezes. But if it’s too cold, you’ll be up feeding it before you close your eyes. Here’s the trick: Before turning in, fill the firebox with the largest, densest logs on hand. Pieces of oak, beech, or maple with big, gnarly knots that are hard to split are perfect. Once they catch, turn the damper on the flue at least halfway down and close the vent so that just enough air is coming into the stove to produce a low but steady flame without a lot of smoke. The stove will produce heat well into the night and leave a nice bed of hot coals you can easily rekindle in the morning.

Still hunt all day long

Before waking up, prepare a map of the area and together with the group mark well-known feeding areas as well as the places where the others will be sitting the next day. You will need to be equipped with a lot of patience, deer hunting is an old practice that in the US predates the colonialists and was practiced by the likes of Sitting Bull.

You’ll be on the go all day, so pack light: water, lunch, knife, drag rope, and a GPS or map and compass cover the basics. Slip on some quiet fleece outerwear and rubber-soled boots. But travel extremely slowly. If you’re not seeing deer before they see you, you’re moving through the woods too fast.

Stay to the side of and above trails and travel corridors. Where fresh deer sign is plentiful, slow to a crawl. Spend more time looking than moving. Where sign is sparse, kick it up a notch. Use binoculars to search for anything that seems out of place: the horizontal line of a deer’s back, or a bit of white that could be a throat patch or rump.

During the pre-rut and rut, try grunting. Wait at least five minutes before moving on. Spray your soles with estrous-doe scent and watch your backtrail. You just might see the biggest buck of the week with its nose to the ground.


Clean a muddy rifle

Don’t underestimate the importance of cleaning your firearms. Especially if it was raining, there is a high chance that at the end of the day your rifle is muddy and that can cause it to rust. But you are at the camp and you don’t have the right tools to do it. Worry not. Lash or tape a finishing nail to one end of a shoelace. Tie a small piece of rag to the other and soak with hot water. Drop the nail down the bore and pull the patch through. Repeat until all visible dirt is removed. Tie on a fresh dry patch and pull through until it comes out dry. Tie on a fresh patch, wipe some oil on it from your truck’s dipstick, and pull it through several times until only a very light coat remains.

Finally, keep in mind some basic do’s and don’ts at a deer camp. There aren’t plenty of rules in the camp, but there is an etiquette you’ll need to keep in mind.

  • DON’T: complain about the food, unless you want to cook.
  • DO: tell the cook exactly how you like your eggs (fried).
  • DON’T: wash cast-iron cookware with soap. Wipe clean with a wet paper towel.
  • DO: strike the match before turning the nozzle on gas appliances.
  • DON’T: play cards if you cannot afford to lose.
  • DO: shake out your sleeping bag. Who knows what’s in it?
  • DON’T: bring back a loaded weapon into the camp
  • DO: Have fun and offer to help out.

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