Sunday, March 02, 2008

Read The Body Language Of Deer

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Body language is body language. It’s not difficult to learn how to read the body language of most people, and it’s not hard to read a deer either.

Walk into the local pub, sit down and look at the people. It’s not difficult to spot the guy with all the muscles, and a monumental chip on his shoulder. He sits on the edge of his bar stool, flexing his muscles, bumping into people, staring other men in the eye.

This goon is looking for a fight. Oblige him by staring back, and the odds are he’ll seek you out. Indoors, outside, in the rest room, he’ll find you if he wants to punch on someone bad enough. Human punching bags are easy for such people to find.

You also can spot the meek and mild-mannered guy who isn’t drunk enough to go home yet. He sits quietly, head-down, nursing his drinks and minds his own business. He doesn’t look anyone in the eye or talk to anyone except the bartender. His body language reads: Leave me alone. I’m miserable enough and don’t need any more problems.

Lover-Boy is easy to spot. He walks in, quickly eyeballs everyone, tries to determine which female is lonely and looking for his undivided attention. He postures a bit, makes eye contact with her, moves in, buys her a drink, and only time will tell what will happen before the sun comes up.

It’s somewhat similar with women. Those who are looking for a guy wear a look that is easy to spot. Those men or women who look over the head of the person they are with, and study the passing traffic, are equally easy to spot. Most of this reading of human body language is easy to figure out.

Reading the body language of a whitetail deer is similar. Where the barroom bully is bluffing everyone in sight, the same thing also occurs with bucks before the rut kicks in. The top buck in the pecking order is full of bluffs early in the season, but once heavy competition for female company becomes intense, the big and bad start whupping on other bucks.

The aggressive buck will walk with his head held high, and will often stop when he sees another buck. If he is feeling aggressive, he assumes a swaggering walk, lays his ears back flat, and becomes almost like the barroom bully as he intimidates other deer. His message is clear to bucks and does: For bucks, his attitude clearly states “mess with me and I’ll stick an antler tine in your backside.” The message for a possible receptive doe is “If you’re ready, come with me.”

I’ve watched this body language many times over 50 years of deer hunting, and if another buck doesn’t drop his head and move away, the bigger buck will either crowd him out of the way with his body presence or will attack. The subordinate buck moves out of the way, lowers his head, and avoids the other buck if it is possible.

Before the rut, dominant bucks move into an area where other deer are moving, and may be easy going or aggressive. If the latter, he raises the hairs on his back and neck, raises his head, the ears move from outstretched to back, and aggressive messages are being sent. Wise bucks step aside.

We’ve all seen a doe moving along and then she stops and looks back. Almost always this is a doe in estrus being followed by a larger buck. Her body language will tell hunters that a buck is trailing behind.

Often a doe will stand motionless, and then bolt off at a dead run. Tests by deer research biologists have determined that running from a buck and a buck chasing the doe, primes both animals for breeding. Either one of those two incidents, especially during the rut, is a good clue to the presence of a nice buck nearby.

Hunters who see a deer standing in or near a scrape, often urinating in the scrape, should take heed. Scents of her estrus is in her urine, and the smell can be picked up by downwind bucks. A doe in a scrape that starts getting edgy, moving in and out of the scrape, is ready to be bred. The longer she stays in the vicinity of a scrape, the more likely the odds of a good buck coming by to study her with keen interest.

Small bucks that dawdle near an active scrape, and suddenly bolt off on a hard run, have likely spotted or heard a good buck on the move toward them. They hope they can scoop up a doe before Big Boy shows up, and if they flee with little warning, get ready for a possible shot.

There are many other body language signs that bucks and does use as a means of communicating their intentions. Study deer often, watch them closely, and see how nearby deer react, and you’ll learn that knowing a deer’s body language is one of the first steps to taking a beautiful buck. It’s like knowing when not to stare Mr.. Muscles in the eye when he’s half-tanked. Body language can be the key to successful deer hunting this fall.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/02 at 04:32 PM
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