You may have a few deer hunting questions of your own, so we figured we'd gather a bunch of them in one place.
"If you've been deer hunting long enough..." It's an old expression used by those who've been engaged in the pursuit of deer for a long time. Being hunters, in a way, makes us brothers and sisters. And nobody argues like siblings. Most of the time, those arguments come up because someone asks a simple question.
For some reason, deer have a way of conquering us hunters like no other critter. We always try to make sense of the pursuit of mule deer or whitetail deer, and the maddening, confusing, amazing, and perplexing things that they do. That, naturally, leads to questions, both about the deer and about ourselves.
Here are some we've always wondered about.
Are Some Deer Smarter Than Others?
We've all seen a how goofy a button buck can act, but they still have the nose, eyes, and ears of a whitetail deer. They just haven't learned how to put it all together.
When it comes down to the adult deer population, it's the smart buck that seems as though it will never wind up on the deer hunter's wall. A deer's life always involves some type of problem-solving, but can they plan, strategize, and formulate ideas that involve higher thought?
Most would say yes, there is such a thing as an old, wise deer. When the deer season starts, they leave public land and head to private sanctuaries. They get old because of their intelligence, and they gain more smarts as they increase their years of age. One factor compounds the other.
On the Other Hand, Why Are Some Deer So Dumb?
Many deer are harvested because their actions are expected, and it's typically due to a hunter's preparation, planning, and ability. It takes more than just a hunting license to actually punch a tag.
Bowhunters know this well. Archery season requires more experience and skill, because the hunter has to close the distance between themselves and the deer. Bowhunting is also done at a time of year before the majority of hunters fill the woods, when regular gun season or muzzleloader season begins.
Still, the fact remains that some deer do some really dumb things. Sometimes they let you walk right up to them. Other times they walk right up to you. I've had young bucks follow me all the way to my tree and watch me climb in. On multiple occasions I've shot a deer in a group, and watched the other deer that were with it just stand there trying to figure out what just happened. In fact, there was one particularly perplexing late-season deer hunt where I touched off my 12 gauge and dropped a nice doe right where she stood. I then watched as the other five deer she was with milled around her and fed on fallen apples and acorns for another 45 minutes.
Let's just say it this way: whether it is instinct or intelligence, deer aren't exactly dumb, but they sure act that way sometimes.
Can Deer Duck An Arrow?
There are times where whitetail deer seem to have an uncanny ability to duck under a shot arrow. Maybe the bigger question is: Do they do it by reason or instinct? If you or I tried to do it, we'd have an arrow sticking out of us. When deer do it, it seems like they knew what was coming.
In fact, there is no shortage of information on this fact. Scientific deductions can and often do take place. An 80-pound bow can generate about 300 fps (give or take). At about 40 yards, a deer whose ears have been startled by the sound of the bow string can move some five to seven inches by the the time that arrow arrives.
Obviously, longer shots are riskier, but when your target buck is standing just inside of your shooting lane, the last thing that you are thinking about is the speed of sound, effects of gravity, and the deer's best reaction time. Do they actually duck to avoid arrows, or are they merely reacting? We may never really know.
Can Deer Detect Danger in the Trees?
While it's probable that deer haven't evolved enough to start checking the treetops each time they move to a new area, plenty of hunters have looked down from a treestand to see a deer looking up at them. It could be due to a variety of reasons. Maybe they saw movement, winded us, or heard a noise we made. Merely moving ourselves up into a tree isn't a guaranteed way to remain undetected.
What's More Wary, Bucks Or Does?
Is it extreme caution, a solitary lifestyle, or simply a survivalist mentality that makes a big mature buck difficult to hunt?
The rut is the big equalizer when it comes to deer hunting. The same deer that has gone all year on high alert will show themselves during daylight, chase a doe in estrous, and fight over breeding rights right under our noses.
At the same time, an adult doe that has survived many deer hunting seasons seems to know what to look for, and other deer will often follow her lead. Though not scientific, I tend to see does that gather in small groups, move slowly and silently, and make no rash moves unless absolutely necessary. To me, they seem more wary, especially during the rut. In my opinion, does are the deer you've really got to be carful around, or the next thing you know, you'll be busted.
Do Deer Become Alerted By Other Animals?
Most deer aren't going to run away just because squirrels are chattering or blue jays are screaming, but it will often make them notice. I've never seen deer scamper away because of these things, but I did have one experience that I can muster remembrance of.
I was witnessing average deer movement one morning just before a small murder of crows began attacking a barred owl in the woods. After 30 straight minutes of circling and barraging the owl, with plenty of noise, the woods grew quiet. I never saw so much as a squirrel or a songbird the rest of the day. I definitely didn't see any more deer. A commotion that big was enough to scare all the wildlife away.
Are Deer Dangerous?
In the wrong circumstances, a rutting whitetail buck can become very aggressive, even to human beings. Does can be dangerous to people and pets, especially if a fawn is involved, but for the most part they will run away to avoid any conflict.
If a buck has his rump tightly tucked, its hair standing up, its ears back or dropped, and his head down, he may be ready to attack. Does with fawns can be alert and aggressive towards people and other animals if they think that their offspring is in danger.
A whitetail doe will even kill other animals to protect a fawn, even if it doesn't seem all that serious of a situation!
One thing I know is that I'd never willingly pick a fight with an antlered buck or a motherly doe. For me, the easy answer to tack onto this question is yes, deer can be dangerous and cause injury. If we're talking about deer and motor vehicle collisions, that fact gets multiplied.
Is It Bad Luck to Shoot a White Deer?
Some hunters say that shooting a piebald deer or albino deer will bring nothing but bad luck. Others think it's the ultimate trophy. Deer with these abnormalities are a little rare, but not all that unusual in the big scheme of things.
In parts of Europe, it is said that to kill a white deer means that you will die within a year. If you believe that, I'd say it's a bad idea.
Ultimately, you will have to make the decision for yourself when the time comes. If it's a legally harvested deer, you're perfectly within your rights. I'm certain the venison will taste the same. Whether it develops bad luck will remain to be seen. I guess it depends on how superstitious you are to begin with.
Will We Ever Really Answer All These Deer Hunting Questions?
Sure, we never historically needed food plots, deer management, or even a hunting license to partake of these natural resources. Big game hunting came down our own potential, practiced skills, and maybe a little luck. Nowadays, we can practice deer management (conducted ourselves on our own private lands or dictated by wildlife agencies in public hunting areas) to support a good deer herd.
But no matter how long you've been at it, or which methods you prefer, there are always going to be a number of deer hunting questions to think about. It's these questions and answers that seem to be at the heart of what it means to be sportsmen. If you ask me, some are better off going unanswered, because discussing, disagreeing, and maybe even a little arguing just adds to the fun!
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