Unnatural noises created by humans scare deer away. It is a simple rule of deer hunting that most deer camps and deer hunters, for that matter, never seem to learn.
Deer are quite laid back within their own comfort zone habitats, but once man intrudes and creates undue pressure on the animals, all kinds of whitetail behaviors begin to change.
How can these unfamiliar and unwanted noises and intrusions be reduced? Read on.
Why aren’t deer being seen?
Every year at our deer camp in Holmes County along the Big Black River, which by all accounts should be an exceptional deer growing habitat, I get asked the same questions. Why are we not seeing more deer?
“Mr. John, I haven’t seen a half dozen deer all weekend. And of all those bucks we got on the trail cameras before opening day — none of them have been seen by us in the daylight, and we’re hunting most of the day,” Drew Dulaney said. “Where are all the deer.”
Among the first things every deer hunter ought to be told every season in a prehunt orientation and rules discussion is that they need to control the noise on the property. This also includes unnecessary running around on the property, excessive scouting without caution, and leaving behind evidence of human intrusion and presence.
Sure, you have to drive into camp, unload gear, greet hunters, have campfires, work around the area and generally do what hunters do in deer camp.
Some camps have shooting ranges for sighting-in guns, others might shoot hand-thrown clays or just plink around with their guns, target practice or shoot tin cans with the kids.
All of that is OK. After all, deer camp is supposed to be fun and all about recreational relaxing.
But how about keeping it restricted to the camp area proper or other designated safe areas especially for shooting guns? For sure, keep these overbore noises out of the hunting areas.
Trust me: The minute humans arrive in deer camp, deer know it immediately — because they can hear it.
We have been sitting on deer stands overlooking food plots near camp and seen deer scatter at the sound of our front gate off the highway rattle when somebody unlocks the chain and padlock. Even we can hear the noise, so we know the deer do.
Sure, they might get used to the occasional truck driving into the camp yard, but they aren’t going to stand around long on the roads or trails if hunters or young folks are racing their four-wheelers up and down the roads.
This runs deer into the thickets and very well could run them off the property, if it becomes abusive on a regular basis. Deer become very sensitive to such intrusions into their domain.
So work to keep noises down or try to eliminate most of the unnecessary racket around the hunting property.
Restrict ATV access, don’t drive regular vehicles around on the roads, park well away from hunting areas and walk in.
Be as quiet as you can when getting into and hunting out of stands, especially metal ones. Turn down cell phones, radios, music players, handheld games and other noise-making devices.
Keeping noise to a minimum is akin to controlling human scent in hunting areas. Either will spook deer, making them uneasy and could cause them to move to other areas where these issues are not a problem.
Many times, when deer hunters are not seeing deer they are at the crux of the problem. Deer can easily be busted off a hunting property due to excessive pressure caused by too much noise, too much scent dispersal or other man-made reasons.
What happens when deer get pressured?
You’ve all heard the litany of excuses most deer hunters use when they don’t see deer.
They have all gone nocturnal (my personal favorite), or the rut has kicked in and the bucks have left in search of receptive does. The acorns are all eaten up and the deer have moved on, looking for more food resources. The heavy frosts have dampened the viability of food plots. A full moon is making the deer feed at night.
On and on it goes.
“When deer actually get pressured for real, they don’t disappear altogether — but they can sure alter their usual modes of behavior,” said Lann Wilf, the former MDWFP Deer Program coordinator. “If you hunt the same stand, especially in uncooperative winds, for three or four days in row, then deer are going to scent you and avoid those areas.
“They didn’t evaporate like a vapor, but they might have quit showing up to feed at the same times or places as they did a couple weeks previously.”
If you joyride around on your ATV during prime hunting hours, deer will pattern that noise and movement. They simply hide until you are gone.
Even during the rut, bucks might be a little punchy but they aren’t stupid. They just avoid humans.
When you sit on a stand talking on your iPhone, laughing and carrying on, the deer go elsewhere. It’s the same if you bang your gun barrel on the metal stand a half dozen times climbing up into it. Even coughing and sneezing too much can scare deer off pushing them to other areas.
You might as well be smoking a cigarette, too.
So, if you’re not seeing many deer around your hunting areas, then it just might be something you are doing wrong.
Control the noise, limit intrusion, be sneaky and you just might catch a big buck off guard.