Senses

The best way to understand a deer's senses and how they matter to a hunter, is to get out in the woods and stalk a few deer. If you can't get your students in the field for this lecture, suggest they go between classes. Ask them to try and get within 50 yards on a deer. If you can get your class into the field, break them up into groups of two of three.  Have them try to move through the forest quietly. Have them look for deer sign. If they do manage to sneak up on a deer, have them sit quietly and watch for a while then have them take a step or say a few words and see what spooks their deer.

If you can't get your students into the field at all, watch a few videos. Observation is the best way to learn wildlife behavior.

Deer depend on their senses to survive. Their most powerful sense, and the one they trust the most, is their sense of smell. A deer’s nose is likely as good as a dog’s, so defeating it is a challenge.

The first “rule” is to approach areas where deer are likely to be, or set-up ambush sites (i.e., stands), so that the deer is upwind from you or your position. Obviously, the stronger the wind the easier it is to accomplish this.

In situations where the wind velocity is low, it become more difficult to detect the actual wind direction and the wind will likely swirl more under these conditions. This makes scent control more important.

It is doubtful that any scent control program will be 100% successful. However, taking steps to eliminate as much scent as possible is well worth the effort. Washing hunting clothes in scent free detergent (Baking Soda works well), and showering with scent free soap (including your hair), and not using scented deodorants or toothpaste are steps that many use to minimize human odor. The overall goal for your scent control is to minimize human odor to the point where deer are not overtly alarmed by its concentration and may hesitate before heading for someplace else.

Tree stands also help dissipate your human odor by placing it above deer that are close, and allowing it to dissipate before it drifts to the deer’s level.

Cloth ground blinds may also enclose your scent and allow it to escape through a top vent.

Additional steps include wearing rubber-bottomed boots while hunting and using various scents marketed to cover human odor.  

Hearing is a deer’s second most developed sense. Wearing soft clothing, such as wool of fleece will help. The sound of metal hitting metal carries a long distance in the woods and is an unnatural sound that can alarm deer. Cell phones, while an important emergency and communication tools, should be muted. Taking the time to clear leaves away from your feet and opening snack packages all at once can also help being quiet.

A deer’s eyesight is it weakest sense and can be generally defeated by sitting still. Often novice hunters erroneously think that sitting still is the same as being quiet and therefore can be fidgety. Taking the time to find a comfortable seat, or bringing in a hunting-cushion to sit on is advisable.  Also, sitting still does not mean sitting motionless, learning to move slowly (and quietly) is a skill that can be practiced at home. Quick movement will draw attention, while slow movement will go unnoticed. 

 

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