East Tennessee Outdoors: Buck Talk – Part 1

Published 12:33 am Monday, March 30, 2020




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I had watched a herd of deer from my vantage point, hidden just to the side of an overgrown field, all summer. I was so familiar with these deer that I had named them, and they all had different personalities.

None of them, however, was as smart as the largest doe in the group. I called her Dolly.

Her body language told me everything I needed to know about the rest of the deer. Some nights she might cuff her two fawns and show them she was still their mother.

If danger came, she was the first to blow through her nose to warn the rest of the herd, and if she wasn’t sure what she was seeing, she was the first to stomp the ground and try to get the unknown animal to show itself.
I watched her all summer until the fall leaves were getting ready to come on the trees.

On one particular fall evening, though, she was acting nervous and she kept watching a large ditch that went through the middle of the field. As the evening grew dark, she kept getting closer and closer to the ditch, like she did not like what was there and wished it would just move on.

Finally, I saw it too. It was the largest buck I have ever seen outside of Cade’s Cove. The antlers on that buck’s head looked like a rocking chair, and Dolly was not comfortable with him so close. Why? I don’t know.

When he jumped out of that ditch and ran across the field, across an old mountain road and disappeared, she went back to feeding and acted normal once again.

Yes, I learned a lot from Dolly and that entire deer herd. What I learned is that deer have their own body language that they use to communicate with each other.

A movement of the tail, a flick of an ear or a snort or whistle all have their purpose in the deer world, and though I learned a lot, I also had much to learn.

Reading deer body language can go a long way in helping you take a deer. All deer use this body language, and understanding it can tell you a great deal about the animals you are hunting.

Here are a few key parts of their language that herd taught me and what they mean to you and to other deer.

1.   Deer Raising Its Nose to the Wind 

A deer’s best defense is their ability to smell. You may be able to fool his eyes and even his ears, but it is very difficult to fool his nose.

If the buck or doe you are watching raises his nose to the wind, he has probably got a whiff of you. Most deer will not stay around long if they pick up your scent.

You may want to take your shot while you can.


2.   Deer Feeding and Swishing His Tail

This is what you want to see. The deer is at ease and has no clue that you are there. When the deer is swishing his tail from side to side, he is content and does not suspect danger in any form.

3.   A Deer is Stomping His Feet: This is not good.

That deer suspects that something is wrong but can’t identify what the danger is. He is stomping the ground trying to get the danger to move so he can identify it.

We all need to learn more about our quarry, and a little knowledge can bring us closer to the buck of a lifetime. Next time, we will discuss more body language for the whitetail deer.