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Overcoming the Senses

When it comes to deer hunting a huge part of the ultimate reward of bagging your quarry is your ability to overcome a deer’s keen senses. While overcoming a deer’s senses is vital to success, I don’t want to downplay the importance of knowing and mastering your weapon of choice either but that’s another whole story if not a book. Overcoming a deer’s senses is especially critical for the bow hunter and by bow hunter I mean someone who must pull back and hold on the deer while in its presence-no scopes or simple trigger pulls as with a crossbow. This need to draw and hold has sent many a deer running off in the opposite direction with a loud snort.

A whitetail is well equipped to handle an invading hunter with its well-developed senses of sight, smell and hearing. Hunters are well aware of the fact that deer often see them before the hunter spots the deer; that’s why we try to limit our movement as much as possible. For the bow hunter it pays to hunt from a treestand or from a blind to help hide any movement, which at some point becomes essential. By the way, you can forget the old theory that deer cannot see color; recent research has shown that whitetails have the necessary cone cell structure in their eyes to see certain colors. They apparently can see the blue range of the color spectrum well, which allows them to see so well in low light or at night. It is believed that they can also see yellow at the mid-range of the spectrum but apparently they cannot see red and green very well. One thing is for sure though they do spot movement very well.

Another sense that we hunters must contend with is the outstanding sense of smell that deer possess. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the sense of smell is probably a deer’s greatest defense mechanism. Opinions regarding a deer’s sense of smell range from 100 to 1000 times better than a human’s; the point is, it’s more than adequate. We as hunters do all kinds of things to “hide” human scent from washing our clothes in special concoctions to using sprays on our clothes and equipment. We also use a variety of cover scents but I think most hunters would still agree that using the wind to your advantage is probably the most important factor. Most bow hunters are especially conscious of wind direction since a successful shot for most of us requires the deer to be within effective bow range-often less than 30 or 40 yards. I have a piece of yarn tied to my bow; it’s finely shredded at the end and it reacts to the slightest of breezes.

Finally we do not want to overlook a deer’s sense of hearing. While the size of a deer’s auditory canal is about the same size as a human’s a deer’s much larger ears allow more sound waves to be gathered and funneled to the inner ear. It is also believed that deer can hear frequencies as high as 30,000 cycles and beyond while a human range is between 40 and 16,000. My wife, on the other hand would be quick to tell you that my range falls somewhere around 5 or 10. Be assured however that a deer will likely hear you before you hear it.

Add to all of this that a deer lives and roams in his domain 24 hours a day and night while we are simply visitors, sometimes total strangers to the location we are hunting. Here’s hoping I can still overcome the deer’s keen senses and maybe take advantage of a bit of “carelessness” on a buck’s part during the rut.

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