Some may think hunters have a secret language. It’s not really a secret, but it is a language. Here are 25 hunting terms, decoded.
So, your friends have invited you over for Sunday football, yet you know nothing about the sport. You quickly search the Internet to find as many terms as possible so you don’t shout “home run” when the home team scores a touchdown. You’re not perfect, nor do you claim to be, but it does help to know some of the lingo before you head over to watch the game.
The same goes for hunting. But it’s not just about speaking the language: most important, you need to understand the difference between a rub and a scrape when you’re out in the field.
Below are 25 hunting terms that will help you not only talk the talk but also walk the walk when hunting season begins.
BBD: “Big Buck Down” is more lingo than a term. This is the ordering of letters everyone wants to hear, say or text while hunting.
Bedding Area: Even though you may well fall asleep in the comfortable Advanced Take-Down Treestands, this pertains to the deer, not the human. This is where deer like to lay down to rest: it’s usually a thicker area where a deer has the upper hand against predators by being able to see, smell or hear them coming and sneak out unnoticed.
Bleat: The sound both fawns and does make. A fawn can make this sound at all times of the year; however, a doe will usually bleat only during the rut. It’s good to know and understand when and when not to use the estrus bleat. The bleat is a “come here” call used only when a doe is in heat and looking for a mate. (Read on for terms used in this description).
Blow (Snort): A warning sound given when a deer is alerted to suspicion. A deer’s nose is your worst enemy while hunting, and when a deer sees something that doesn’t look right, it will alert others by lifting its white tail straight up and accompanying that movement with a “deer blow.” This also is a way for the deer to, basically, blow its nose to better gather the scent of whatever has alerted it.
Browtine: The first antler forking directly above the deer’s brow or head.
Climber: This refers to a type of tree stand that requires no ladder or steps to climb into the tree. The climber is a stand that doubles as a tool used to climb a tree and then to sit, watch and hunt from.
Estrus: This refers to the period of time when does are sexually receptive. Contrary to some beliefs, does are only in estrus for 48-72 hours and usually only breed within a 24-hour phase.
Food Plot: Usually man made, this is your deer’s grocery store. Some of the most popular food plots are clover, oats, turnips and soybean. Food plots are very helpful in deer management when trying to manage a deer herd.
Ground Blind: A ground blind is a way to help hide and conceal yourself while hunting. It can be permanent or portable: many portable blinds resemble a pop-up tent with removable or zippered windows. They may have a camouflage pattern to blend with the surroundings.
Grunt: The sound all mature deer make, both does and bucks. It, too, means something like “Hey there, I’m over here.” During the rut, a buck will use what is called a tending grunt, which is a series of soft grunts, while trailing a doe in heat.
In Heat: See “Estrus”
Lock Down: This term refers to the period of time when does are in estrus, and the bucks follow the doe wherever she goes in an attempt to breed her. The buck becomes “locked down,” often skipping on food and water and focusing solely on breeding the doe.
October Lull: You may hear hunters using this terms to excuse a lack of deer sightings. Often considered a myth, hunters may find there is a period of time when deer are transitioning from green food sources to other masts, like acorns. Deer who have noticed the hunting pressure increase may become nocturnal during this time, also contributing to the lack of daytime sightings. This usually happens in the month of October and ends when the rut begins.
Pre-Rut: The first and most exciting phase of the rut. During this time, bucks are seeking and chasing other deer in search of does coming into estrus. For good reason, this is often confused with the middle phase of the rut, which is also called “the rut.” However, during the rut, the bucks tend toward lock-down, while the pre-rut describes the chasing and seeking phase. This is the period of time when every hunter wants to be in the stand and, if possible, pulling an all-day sit.
Rattling: In the attempt to replicate the sound of two bucks sparring or fighting, a hunter will use rattling antlers to try to attract other bucks in the area.
Rub: Often confused with a deer scrape, a rub is a visible mark from a deer’s antlers made on a tree or series of trees, called a rubline. Bucks will often rub to quicken the removal of their velvet during the early season. As the season progresses, bucks will begin rubbing to increase neck muscles, mark boundaries or indicate their presence visibly to other deer.
Rut: This is the time of the year bucks and hunters look forward to the most,when the does come into estrus and the bucks are running all over the place trying to find them. There are many theories out there about which factor determines when does come into estrus. Whitetail biologists such as Charles Alsheimer have led studies that conclude that the phase of the moon is the leading factor. Based on my personal study of data I recorded and collected in my journals after countless hours in the stand, I find that when the daylight decreases to 10 hours and 20 minutes, the pre-rut begins. The rut is broken down into three phases: Pre-Rut, Rut and Post-Rut.
Sanctuary: An area that most hunters try to locate but also avoid entering. Here, the deer feel safe; you might consider this their home. As hunters, you want deer to have this area, but you also want this area to be within the perimeter of your hunting grounds. Deer will often travel between their sanctuary and food sources, so knowing where both are puts you at an advantage. A sanctuary will include a deer’s bedding area. Try to avoid walking on or entering into this location to allow the deer to feel as though they are always safe there.
Scent Control: As mentioned earlier, a deer’s nose is your worst enemy. Controlling your scent is imperative when hunting. Keeping yourself downwind of the deer and using scent control technology (like the Scent Crusher products) can be extremely helpful. Scent crusher, which introduces ozone, kills the scent-causing bacteria and can greatly reduce your chances of being detected by a deer.
Score: The score of a deer is the supplemental number of inches measured using the Boone & Crockett measuring system. This metric wasn’t as popular in the past, when hunters used to describe deer by their weight or the number of “points” the antlers counted for. Today, hunters are “scoring” their bucks to determine where their bucks ranks among others.
Scrape: Contrary to a buck rub, a scrape is made on the ground. A deer will paw the ground and clear an area equal to or greater than the size of a basketball. A buck will clear the ground, urinate on its tarsal glands (see below), then squeeze the urine into the scrape. This indicates his presence and dominance in the area. Bucks will form scrapes to mark territory, but they are mostly used to show his presence and find the presence of other deer in the area. Does will often visit these scrapes and, when in heat, urinate in the scrape. Bucks check these scrapes during the early phases of the rut, often on a daily basis, which is why finding a scrape or a series of scrapes (called a scrape line) is a great hunting tactic during the pre-rut.
Snort ‘n’ Wheeze: A sound bucks make as a territorial response to other bucks. Often, if a buck snorts ‘n’ wheezes at another buck, it could set the stage for a fight, depending on how territorial or dominant the bucks are. Much like a push to the chest or name calling prior to a high school brawl over a girlfriend, the snort ‘n’ wheeze is a great call to learn and use to help draw that buck into range.
Sparring: As bucks drop their velvet and prepare for the rut, sparring will occur. Much like sparring in boxing, this is a way to size each other up and “practice” in preparation for the rut when bucks will often times fight to the death over a doe in estrus.
Taxidermy: Contrary to what my fiancé thought two years ago when I brought one of my Missouri and Maryland bucks to the taxidermist, taxidermy has nothing to do with the IRS. Taxidermy is the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skin of an animal. A taxidermist is the artist who performs the taxidermy, and many hardcore hunters include taxidermy in their annual household budget.
Velvet (Antler): Each year, deer shed their antlers during early winter and grow and form new antlers during the summer into the fall. As the antlers grow and before the antlers are calcified, the antler is in a stage known as velvet. Much like the fabric, a velvet antler is soft to the touch. As the antler calcifies, the bucks begin to shed the velvet, leaving the hard remains known as their antlers.