Watching a doe can tell you a lot, especially if you know what to look for.
Whitetail deer are interesting creatures to watch. Their actions and habits are perfect indicators of their mood, awareness, and state of mind. By watching a whitetail long enough, you can learn to tell a lot about a hunting situation when a doe is present, especially if you are able to watch without her knowing you are there.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in a stand or blind with a doe feeding nearby, it is time to pay attention. By watching her actions and understanding why she moves a certain way or keeps looking over her shoulder in a specific direction, you will have a distinct advantage when it comes to knowing if a buck is nearby.
More Hunting Help
Does are nature’s built in alarm system for bucks and hunters alike. If you know how to read the actions of a doe, you’re one step closer to bringing home a nice buck.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you can watch an unsuspecting doe, take the time to notice her movements and pick up on her attitude. Let her presence work in your favor. She’ll let you know if she has male company. All you have to do is know how to read her body language.
Eyes, Ears, Nose
Deer use their senses to survive. A doe will let you know if she is alone by the way she reacts to the stimuli around her. If you see a doe coming out to feed, but she is constantly looking over her shoulder or twitching her ear in a certain direction, there is a good chance she either sees or hears something you don’t. In most cases, this will either be another doe or a buck.
Bucks are notorious for hanging back and letting a doe take the lead. They have learned to read the signs of a doe just like a hunter should. These wise old bucks let the body language and actions of a doe tell them if it is safe to come out and feed or if they should hightail it in another direction.
Does will use their eyes, ears, and nose to scan an area for danger. For instance, a lift of her head and a stretched neck indicates she is trying to catch the scent of something she isn’t sure of, but doesn’t quite smell right.
A twitching ear means she is listening for movement in the direction of the twitch and the biggest indicator is if she continuously interrupts her feeding to keep watch over her shoulder or in a specific direction. Should this happen, it is definitely time to pay attention for a possible buck sighting.
The Tail Twitch
A doe uses her tail as a warning flag for other deer. If she is content and feeding, usually her tail will move slowly, or it will remain still and forgotten. The minute she suspects something is amiss, the first thing that will happen is her tail will stand straight up and she will stop moving.
Her flag will remain at the ready until she either relaxes or escalates her panic. A doe with a fast twitching tail, upright flag, or waving flag, has already sensed danger and is in the process of vacating the area. Should you see a doe in this state, she has either busted you or senses danger in the form of another predator, hunter, or in the unwanted attention of an aggressive buck.
A doe that isn’t in heat will try to avoid a rutting buck. She will treat him in the same way as a predator or human and will avoid him at all costs until she is ready to be bred. If you’re in a situation where everything is calm and the wind is right to keep you from being busted, it is a good sign a buck is in the area if the doe you’re watching suddenly throws up a flag or suddenly decides she wants to be somewhere else.
A relaxed doe will feed and move slowly and efficiently. She may raise her head to scan the area every once in a while or pause every so often to listen, but her overall body language will appear calm and at ease. If a doe is feeding normally, but suddenly stops feeding and comes to full attention, it is time to pay attention.
Watch her closely. Look where she looks and if she seems focused on a certain spot off in the distance, be ready. An alert body posture is a great indication of incoming deer traffic. If she doesn’t run, snort, or panic, then there is a good chance the approaching animal is a good distance away. If she gives a warning stomp or becomes jumpy, there is a good chance what she sees isn’t a deer at all. In that situation, watch for predators or other hunters.
There are times when a doe will stop feeding and instantly panic. She may jump sideways or take off running without warning. Depending on her age and the situation, this can mean one of two things. If she is young, she may simply feel good and want to play. As amazing as it may seem, young deer love to play and frolic for no good reason other than they are happy to be alive.
However, if an older doe behaves in this manner, it could mean something totally different. Old, smart does are constantly vigilant and ever aware of danger. If the weather is hot, she may jump because of an unexpected encounter with a snake or beehive. If the weather is cold, her sudden jump may have more to do with the sudden appearance of a rutting buck or a predator.
Either way, it is a good idea to take note of instant panic in a doe and scan the area closely to make sure you aren’t missing an opportunity at a sneaky, old buck.