flehman 2All critters communicate. The messages may be simple but they can be seen, heard, or smelled by the attentive hunter. Body language speaks more loudly than deer sounds.

What a deer is thinking is displayed by its body language. If you see a buck prancing, head up, and his tail halfway out, then he is saying “I am the Big Buck of the woods!” You can understand where the buck is focused by looking at his nose and ears. They will be pointed at the curiosity he senses. If you see a doe, with her tail wagging slowly side to side, she is probably in estrus, and is being followed by a buck. If you see a buck with its head back and front lip curled, you are seeing the “Flehmen Posture”. The buck is trying to smell, and locate a doe in estrus. Now is when you should make your doe call. Knowing what the deer are saying, gives the hunter a huge advantage.

Stand hunting is fine, but not my favorite form of hunting. Sitting for hours above the ground is boring. Sure, you can birdwatch, text, snooze, or flex, but ultimately, you need to simply wait. Bait piles, luck, feeders, and natural movements are all dependent factors. Hunting in a tree is about waiting, not hunting. About the time you need to stretch, your movement spooks the deer.

Tree stands are deadly. They can help you to surprise a deer, but most deer hunting accidents are a result of tree stand use. We have all heard the stories of hunters falling from their perch. Last season, I knew a hunter that tripped climbing a staircase to his comfy, and super fancy, box stand. The stairs are the same you would find on a home. It even had a handrail. On the way up the stairs, he stepped on the strap of his cooler, and fell off. His leg hooked into the step and he broke it. He hung there for 5 hours until the guide returned, after dark, to pick him up.

Still hunting is also a sporting, and skillful, way to hunt. The reason I bring up the deer stand story, is to remind hunters that there are other ways to hunt. Still hunting may be a more exciting and effective technique. Knowing a deer’s language will help you to interpret what is going on. You will spook some deer and make mistakes, but you will be “hunting” and not just sitting. The knowledge and skill that you acquire is unsurpassed. Now the hunter is also physically, and mentally engaged in the hunt.

Deer do make sounds. The most common are snorts, wheezes, bleats, and grunts. Become a student of the deer’s language. Bucks also respond to the sounds of rattling antlers, which mimics bucks fighting.  Snorts are often the noise a deer makes by clearing their nostrils. Something has alerted them and they clear out their nose so they can get a good whiff. Usually, this means you are busted. Wheezes and grunts are sounds deer make to announce their presence to each other. Bugling, is an aspect of the deer language found in elk and Sika deer.

When hunting from the ground, knowing deer talk is essential. First, make sure you are hunting into the wind, to smell and hear the deer first. You will be amazed how often you will smell a deer, especially on cool fall mornings. Now you need to see the deer to know what they are saying. Learn to see a deer’s ear twitch, a tail flip, antler reflection, and look for horizontal lines. These shapes will often show the back and belly of a deer in a vertical forest. Rarely will you see the whole deer. Don’t look for a deer, look for a part of a deer.

Since so many hunters are high above the ground, deer are more tuned into that threat. Scent is a huge factor as a cone of hunter smell falls from the air and spreads over a large area. Deer have become more conditioned to look up. If you hunt on the ground and into the wind, your scent is closer and consolidated to the ground.

Interpreting what a deer is thinking can allow the hunter to stalk closer. If their tails are down, and generally still, all is well. If the tail is up, stay still. Hoof stomps are when deer warn others of potential danger. A tarsal scent is also being released, which will be on site for hours. Now the deer will turn on their eyes, and noses, to identify the threat. Wait until the deer become relaxed, and feed, before you stalk again.whitetail at alert

Hunt with the attitude that you expect see deer at any moment. Do not let your guard down. Calculate every step. It is called “Still Hunting” for a reason. Rarely does a good still hunter move more than 3 slow and precise steps. Stop by trees and cover. Use all your senses to scan the cover around you. This form of hunting requires your total focus. No time for texting, snacks, and napping. Time flies by and you will be surprised at the number of deer, and critters you will see.

A deer will hear you 3 times, see you twice, but smell you once! Masking your scent is paramount! Hunting the wind is a must! Identify every smell, sound, and movement. Binoculars are a great aid.

Another great way to talk to the deer, when still hunting, is to carry a spare deer tail, and a bleat call. When you are moving along, and bump a deer, use the bleat call and flick the tail, side to side, in front of you. This works best with single deer and small groups of deer. If they have winded you, forget it. But… this tail flick idea works well early in the season and will allow you to get close enough for a shot.

 Humans also give off an electromagnetic field, that animals can sense. Try wearing H.E.C.S., a garment made to mask the electrical signals your body gives off. The human body has a measurable electric field. Every movement is a result of an electric spark, or synapse, that turns muscles on and off. The HECS suit, “Human Electromagnetic Concealment System”, eliminates this electric field. Weather makes the suit more, or less, effective but…I have had all kinds of critters come closer than I ever could imagine. I use it as another layer of camouflage.

Luck is always a factor. You can’t control everything. At least you can learn how to understand what the deer are telling you!

Talk to the animals!

Montana Grant

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