Deer Hunting in a Pine Forest

by Zach Lazzari
The pine forest surrounding Lake Tahoe is home to mule deer.

The pine forest surrounding Lake Tahoe is home to mule deer.

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Mule deer, blacktail deer and whitetail deer are all common pine forest occupants. Healthy pine forest deer populations exist in several regions of the U.S., including the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Texas hill country and the northern Rocky Mountains. While pine forests offer plentiful trophy opportunities, they also limit visibility and hunters need advanced strategies to locate and kill deer.


Scouting is a critical element for pine forest hunting. Deer move in low light conditions and you may not see any animals in several days of scouting. Spend at least five days scouting with binoculars prior to the hunt. Locate a group of deer and monitor their movements for as long as possible. Deer are habitual and you can locate the deer during the hunt based on your scouting observations. Use the scouting observations to plan your positioning and approach to avoid spooking the deer.

Food Sources

Follow the food sources and you will find deer. The pine trees shade the ground and limit plant growth. Food is most abundant in areas with sparse stands of trees and large clearings. These areas receive sunlight and have abundant brush and grass. Watch the clearings during the low light conditions when deer feed and search the thick stands of timber for bedding areas during the middle of the day.

Game Trails

The dedicated routes used by deer in pine forests leave evidence in the form of trails. Place a blind or tree stand in the trail area and wait for an opportunity to ambush. Hunt the early morning and late evening for traveling deer and stalk the surrounding forest during the day for bedded deer. Place your blind on the trail well in advance of the season. This allows the deer to become accustomed to the blind and prevents spooking when the new object is noticed.

Burn Areas

Pine forests are subject to natural cycles of burn and growth. Take note of the burn areas and hunt the burn two years after the fire is extinguished. The burn area is filled with fresh grass and plant growth during the recovery period. Deer are attracted to the abundance of forage in the burn areas and your hunting efforts are rewarded by closely monitoring the areas.

Roadless Areas

Pine forests are often associated with logging roads, public lands and access for public hunting. The deer respond to hunting pressure by avoiding movement during the day and retreating to more remote sections of the forest. Train your body before the hunting season and hike to remote sections of the forest. The hunting pressure will subside and the deer will be less cautious and more abundant.

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