image of mule deer

You did all the correct things leading up to this moment. You have all the matching camouflage clothing, scouted for months, perfectly positioned your tree stand, and now a deer is broadside in front of you on opening morning. You practiced and honed your shooting skills for this moment. You carefully aim… and… BANG!!! You just shot a deer! Now what? Here are six essential things you should do.

Visually confirm where your deer is downed

Do not be so excited you bury yourself in your cellphone texting buddies or are rummaging for more ammo. Be patient. Be calm. Confirm where either the deer headed or where it fell, if that can be seen.

Tag your deer

Many states have laws requiring you tag your deer where it is downed. Often times, we get so excited slapping each other’s backs on a job well done, field-dressing the deer and dragging it back to our vehicle we forget to tag it. So always be sure to tag your deer.

Know your location and exit strategy

Sometimes when we make a shot on a deer, they tip over immediately. No fuss, no worries. You know where you are and you have an easy path out of the woods. Other less fortunate times you make an accurate shot, but the deer runs 200 yards out of sight. Possibly into a portion of the woods you are unfamiliar with. Now it is beginning to get dark and your ol’ faithful flashlight is waning in brightness. Always have a good understanding of your hunting surroundings and know multiple ways to get back to your vehicle with a deer in tow.

Get your deer out of the woods

In the previous scenario, you definitely do not want to be lost in the dark trying to get a deer home. If you drop a deer in the middle of the day, it is often best to get it back to your rendezvousing point sooner than later. It is also important because of other predators on the food chain who would love to snack on your deer. In areas with bears, wolves, mountain lions or other predators the longer you leave your harvest lay is a ticking time clock before something else munches on it.

Preserve or process your deer

One age-old tradition is to get your deer to deer camp and string it up in a tree until the end of the weekend. This is almost a rite of passage for some. To bag your 1st whitetail and see it hanging from a tree proudly as your family converses over your successful harvest. This can be extremely gratifying, but you need to be mindful of the weather. If it is 30 degrees outside, your deer is hanging in nature’s ice box. It will keep until the end of the weekend where you can clean it or bring it to a butcher. If it is a balmy 70 degrees out, your deer will be rancid by the end of the weekend. So be cognizant of where you are storing your deer until processing. Whether it be in a tree, garage or walk-in cooler be sure it will keep your deer fresh until processing time.

Snap a photo

While you might be unimpressed with your deer that does not meet your goal, capture the moment for others. Your friends and family will likely be beaming with pride to see your harvest. Even if they are not at deer camp, take a selfie or have a hunting buddy get a picture of you and your deer to share the moment.

Is there anything that you think we missed? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below!


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