Deer Sounds
Getty Images: marcinplaza

What Every Deer Sound Means, and Why Hunters Need to Know Them


Advertisement

Understanding the behavioral intricacies of whitetail deer is no easy feat, as these animals are as crafty as they are intuitive. Their language complexities make hunting them both fun and challenging, because only a seasoned hunter can understand what each sound makes, and only an expert hunter can find a way to blend in with a herd. Fortunately, humans have been studying all of these vocalizations for years for both hunting and conservation purposes, which has led to a better understanding of what each noise means. We now can now decipher micro variations in dialect, giving us a deeper sense of what deer are trying to say to one another.

Without question, learning these different vocalizations and what they mean will make you a better hunter. So today, we're going to delve into what you can take from everything you're hearing in the woods, and how you can transfer that knowledge into a successful harvest.

Grunts

Easily the most common vocalization you'll hear in the woods, the grunt is essentially the monotone speaking voice of a deer. However, there are many different variations, each of which carries its own meaning.

Advertisement

The most common of these is a low and quick "urp" sound, which is what's called a contact grunt or social grunt. Both bucks and does use these grunts to announce their presence in an area and identify themselves to other deer, almost like saying, "Hello, I'm here." They sound a little different between the sexes, but both serve as a way of establishing a social hierarchy. A buck grunt typically sounds a little deeper and guttural than that of a doe, which produce more of a higher, nasally sound. I couldn't count the number of times I've watched does feeding right out in front of me, only to start sparring with the younger deer and chasing them off. The whole time, the more mature doe was making this grunt noise, which became deeper, raspier, and more aggressive as she asserted more dominance.

Deer grunts are also used to convey a softer message, however, which you can hear in the video above. Here we have a doe calling to her fawn with more of a cooing "urrrrp" sound, almost asking her little one to come along.

If you spend enough time in a blind or a stand and hear these grunts and observe the behavior that follows, eventually you start to make sense of the context of the situation, and you start to understand what each sound means.

The Well-Known Buck Grunt

Advertisement

When most of us think of a grunt, we think of that echoing, saliva-inducing sound that only comes from a buck during the rut. However, there's again a wide range of variations, but all of them are unique to the peak of hunting season.

While bucks will use short grunts to stake out their territory and intimidate rivals, they sometimes use the same sound to establish dominance when chasing does, which many often call "trailing grunts." The sound is virtually unmistakable and enough to get any hunter's blood pumping, as it means only one thing: a buck is coming in hot on a doe's trail, so get ready for action. The sound itself is somewhat of an excited "urp-urp-urp-rup" along with the ruckus of crunching leaves and cracking branches.

Next there's the tending rut, a guttural "urrrrrrrrrp" sound, which often includes a mix of short grunt sounds, too, all of which signify ownership to a doe, as well as other interested bucks. You can emulate all of these sounds with a grunt call, which is particularly effective when a buck is riled up. Effective calling and timing of those sounds will bring a buck right to you.

Advertisement

Slightly less common is the "buck bawl," "growl," "rage grunt," "breeding bellow," or "buck roar," all of which are different names for the sound big bucks make when an estrous doe is near. Noticeably lower and a tad eerie, this guttural vocalization doesn't even sound like it's coming from a deer. The video above is a perfect example of just that.

Rutting bucks make this sound when they're frustrated--which is exactly what it sounds like--because they're lonely or a doe hasn't allowed them to breed yet. A number of grunt calls have hit the market in recent years to create a version of this sound, but it's a difficult one to pull off, and thus should be reserved for experienced callers. Without the perfect pitch and cadence, you'll run the risk of scaring away bucks instead of attracting them. However, if you're looking for a new challenge, or if you feel like you're grasping for a new approach after failing with some of your default calls, it's worth a try.

Deer Bleats

Doe bleats, much like grunts, have numerous variations, all dependent on a given situation.  are interesting. Much like grunts, it seems bleats have many different meanings depending on the situation. First there are estrus doe bleats, which they make when they're in heat but there aren't any bucks around. The intensity of this sound comes down to how long the doe has gone without a suitor. Most of the can-style calls you can buy on the market are designed to resemble a more desperate mating call, but does use bleats all year long for various purposes, one of which is to communicate with their fawns.

Advertisement

Additionally, fawn bleating can indicate distress. It's this reason we hear this sound used for coyote hunting, as the agonizing sound triggers nearby predators who might be looking for an easy meal.

Snort-Wheeze

The snort-wheeze is an intimidation call. I must admit, I've never heard this one in person. It's just not a deer call one hears very often. This one has a sound like the deer is trying to clear some stuffed-up sinuses. This is the call mature bucks like to use in the pre-rut and rut when they want to intimidate a rival away from their does.

This call sounds exactly like it is described. It's a short, loud sniff or snorting sound followed by a long wheeze. This one takes hunters by surprise sometimes, because it doesn't sound anything like the more common grunts and bleats.

Advertisement

It's also worth noting that bucks sometimes use the two parts of the snort wheeze on their own. For a large, dominant buck, they might only need to give a single snort to send a younger rival packing. Whatever sound they use, if you see and hear a buck making these sounds, do a scan of your surroundings. It is likely there is another buck in the area that you haven't spotted yet.

Blowing

If you're new to hunting, this is the most likely deer vocalization you will hear first. Veteran hunters know what I'm talking about. There are several stages to a doe sensing danger, and the annoying thing is, every one of them escalates as they warn other deer in the area that something just isn't right.

Big, mature does especially are the ones you'll hear blowing the most. These does are the wise old matriarchs of their group, and they're always on the lookout for danger. Usually, if a doe spots you, it'll start out with a stare down and then the doe will start stamping her feet.

Advertisement

The foot stamping says to other deer, "Hey, something isn't right here, be on alert!" Once the doe is certain there is danger, she'll loudly start blowing. It's a very shrill sound, almost like a whistle. If it makes you jump when you hear it, that's what the doe intended.

Once a doe starts making this sound, it's game over for your hunt. Does who have been spooked will often run off while continuing to make the sound as they vanish out of sight. Obviously, this is the one call you don't want to hear or emulate!

Learning the sounds deer make can make you that much better at deer calling. But it also helps you to understand why deer act the way they do in certain situations. Knowing what each deer sound means and what prompted the deer to make it will help make you a better hunter in the long run.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out Outdoors with Travis Youtube channels

Advertisement

READ MORE: THE GREAT BIG OKLAHOMA DEER HUNTING GUIDE

Related Videos

 
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]