Field dressing a deer is a rite of passage for all deer hunters and we've all wondered what will visit the gut pile after our successful deer hunt. While many creatures will stumble upon it, there are still others that will seek it out for its nutritional value, whatever that value is to the animal in question.
This is a fun question that we've all wanted a closer look at, even though we all have our theories based on a lifetime in the woods. There are a lot of critters out there that spend their waking days and nights in search of food and when a menu item shows up unexpectedly, they will surely take advantage of it.
While there are a few on this list that you will recognize and be ready for, we think a few will surprise you. Before you peek, take a few guesses in your mind, and see how close you are.
We began with this one because other deer will undoubtedly notice your leftover gut pile. They will also notice other carrion. Sure, deer are considered herbivores, but they do show flesh-eating tendencies from time to time. They are usually only known to eat meat if the opportunity arises, but their digestive systems are just not designed for prolonged meat eating. We know it sounds strange, but it is not unheard of that deer have been known to eat dead fish, birds, and even human remains in one rare instance!
Bobcats, lynx, and especially mountain lions will devour these remains with a vengeance if given the opportunity. Wild cats are adapted to hunting and killing both whitetails and mule deer, but they won't turn up their noses at a free source of protein at a gut pile. It's an easy meal with zero risk or injury unless they fight another predator for it. Bobcats are especially well suited to find meals like these when other sources are not available.
This one is rather obvious, but it certainly needs to be included on a list of animals that will visit your gut pile. A pack of coyotes will hog it all for themselves, grab some and run, or fight it out with any other animals that try to get any. With coyotes around, you might think that nothing else would be able to get any of the leftovers, but they seem to show up most often when other animals have left the scene.
Turkey vultures might even be more obvious than coyotes, but these carrion eaters play a significant role in cleaning up after nature's (or a hunter's) mess. Vultures will come in droves to visit a gut pile or carcass and eat until they can't move anymore, and they're not easily scared off. While they may move into the trees to avoid a larger predator, they're not going anywhere until every last scrap of flesh or organ is gone.
Many people don't realize it, but owls are opportunity feeders like any other animal that eats meat. And they will prove it every time. They are famous for coming after dark to avoid other creatures, but they will get on a gut pile and eat during the daylight hours as well. Some species of owls are known to routinely feed on road kills as well.
Just like the owl, a red-tailed hawk will take advantage of your gut pile like most other animals that can find it. These hawks are most often seen in the treetops, on power poles, or sitting on the power lines waiting for rodents to make a mistake. Sure, they're great at hunting rodents, but many find it hard to resist the easy meal offered by a fresh gut pile.
Crows are well known to visit a gut pile, even fighting each other for it. They are often seen right alongside turkey vultures vying for the best parts before it is all gone. Sometimes they are the first animals to arrive. Crows are notoriously smart and difficult to hunt, but if you were to set up over a gut pile your odds would increase.
No one can accuse the blue jay of being a picky eater. These birds will eat a lot of different insects, especially caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, but they are also known to eat other bird's eggs, frogs, and even carrion. It's not that unusual to see them visit a gut pile and take advantage of the opportunity to get some animal protein when it is available, but this is obviously a seasonal thing.
Yes chickadees. Chickadees are omnivorous and not especially picky eaters, and as any hunter will tell you, they are fearless. They often land right next to us in the tree without a care in the world. When food is especially scarce, chickadees can be seen on a carcass or on your gut pile. I've personally seen a group of chickadees feeding on a dead buck I found while grouse hunting.
Foxes love a good gut pile and will come from miles around to take part in eating it. Foxes are well known for being cunning and stealthy. They will show up often times when other animals have left the scene, but if they can they will get in and get out before anything else knows they were there. Foxes also seem to prefer the early mornings just before sunrise when other creatures have given up.
Alongside bald eagles, grizzly bears, and mountain lions, hunters often leave gut piles in the woodlands near of some of nature's top-level predators and they will dig right in. The omnivorous black bear is a part of the outdoor world's best cleanup crew and has no qualms about treating your gut pile like the best thing it ever ate and it will chase off anything else that shows up.
Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube.
READ MORE: 4 THINGS TO CHANGE BEFORE DEER SEASON ENDS
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