White Tail DeerThis time last year, I was laid off from my job, and with bills and deer season looming, I was determined to take care of both. In the year that has followed I have spoken with many hunters who have faced layoffs or pay cuts and many say the same thing: “it’s just getting too expensive these days.” Here are a few helpful ways to feed your passion for deer hunting as well as your family.

Maybe the most important factor to your success this season will be pre-season scouting. Let’s say you only have the time and resources to make it out into the deer woods once before opening day. Not a problem, plan on making a full day of it. The first step is to walk the property. If you have access to aerial maps or internet pictures such as the ones provided by Google Earth it always pays to look at those the night before. Spend a few hours slowly walking the property looking for several quality stand locations. One may be a stand of white oak trees, as their acorns are always a favorite for deer. A water source is another good area to hunt, especially with severe drought conditions over much of the United States recently. By following deer trails leaving agricultural fields towards their bedding areas, you will establish the perfect intercepting area to place a stand. Now that you have selected promising areas to hunt (preferably with different locations for different wind directions) you need to clear some shooting lanes. You do not need a bush hog or tractor for this, simply a hand saw and machete will provide you with nice shooting lanes and maybe a blister or two.

Let’s say you have located several good spots to hunt but are on a limited budget and cannot afford to purchase a lean to stand, a climbing stand or a pop up blind. I found a cheaper alternative when I returned to the woods after Christmas two years ago and found my climbing stands had been stolen. For less than twenty dollars you can go to a local farm supply store and purchase four electric fence stakes (a dollar each) and camouflage netting. Combine those with a padded bucket or portable chair and you have a first class ground blind that can be assembled in less than a minute. You have the mobility that a climbing stand provides without the clanging metal sounds and burden of finding the perfect tree. An obvious disadvantage to this is that you won’t have the luxury of being high up in a tree to see the deer coming in.  Hunting from the ground is not for the faint of heart. It is up close and personal and when it happens, it happens fast, but when it all goes right there is nothing like it.

Over the past couple of years the price of deer corn has skyrocketed, along with the price of carbon fiber clothing. Note: baiting for deer is not legal in every state and can be an ethical hot topic debate.  I for one do not have a problem with it.  Instead of buying bags of corn at outrageous prices, find an area near your home with an abundance of acorns in October when they begin to drop. By filling my bucket seat up with white oak acorns and scattering them where I hunted last year, I saw deer every time and saved a pretty penny. Carbon fiber clothing is too expensive for many of us, but this does not have to put you at a disadvantage. One cost I recommend not to skip is scent masking products.  Many of these products tend to go up in price year over year, so look for combination kits that provided deodorant, clothing spray, and detergent. Staying on top of scent elimination is one of your biggest keys to success and is still vastly under used among hunters today.

There are unavoidable costs to deer hunting such as a firearm, ammunition and gasoline, but you can cut this cost via the buddy system.  The more hunting buddies you have the more you can rotate driving. If none of your friends grew up hunting, extend an invitation. Our biggest role as hunters will always be to introduce our love of the outdoors to others. And don’t be surprised if this new hunter catches a mean case of deer fever and is beating down your door for their next encounter with a whitetail.