Whitetails and Sounds Made by Hunters

A whitetail’s nose is only useful for detecting potential danger upwind. Though very sensitive to spotting movements, a whitetail’s eyes are not particularly effective for spotting motionless hunters at least 50% masked top to bottom by natural cover. The only sense that enables experienced whitetails (2-1/2 years of age or older) to identify and avoid danger 24/7 in every direction safe distances away is their excellent hearing. Ironically, most whitetail hunters spend considerable money on products intended to mask or eliminate human odors and on other products intended to mask or conceal their bodies, but few do little, if anything, to minimize or eliminate the enormous number of readily-heard, telltale sounds characteristic of humans hunting whitetails.

Many sounds unique to human hunters come from clothing — coarse-surfaced outer fabrics that create rasping or crackling sounds when brushed against tree trunks, branches, bark, foliage, tall grasses and shrubs. Some identifying sounds come from metallic objects carried in pockets such as jingling cartridges, a flashlight, knife, whistle, match safe and compass. In addition to squeaking sling swivels, their rifles frequently glance off or bang against tree trunks and branches. Their backpacked tree stands or metal-framed stools occasionally make distinctive, metallic sounds as well, and it is nearly impossible to install a portable stand in a tree without making identifying sounds. Hunters who speak out loud to partners while on the trail to a stand site, or sneeze, cough, clear their throats, blow their noses, spit and drag their heels on a quiet morning are soon pegged by every mature deer within up to 200 yards. Other identifying sounds include saplings slapping boot fronts and swishing branches snatching hunting caps. Much too often, branches break (snap) loudly when pushed through or stepped on by deer hunters. Meanwhile, deer hunter’s footsteps are characteristically heavy (loud) and frequently interrupted by periods of silence — the hunter often halting to scan ahead and listen — revealing to deer the hunter is hunting and therefore dangerous.

A common prelude to all these identifying sounds are sounds of approaching gas-powered vehicles — snowmobiles, ATVs or other off-road vehicles — easily heard while being off-loaded and running miles away. Most who use them drive them close to stand sites or trails leading to stand sites. Today, there is hardly a mature whitetail anywhere that fails to realize sounds made by any of these approaching machines means, “Here comes a hunter.” There is hardly a mature whitetail today that fails to realize when one suddenly becomes silent nearby, a crack of thunder may soon be heard or a hunter will soon be heard approaching on foot. There is hardly a mature whitetail today that fails to realize the familiar fumes of oil, gas and exhaust being carried on a breeze are coming from a hunter (clothing and boots) that recently used such a vehicle. Similarly, there is hardly a mature whitetail today that does not realize what to expect upon hearing an approaching truck or car halt nearby, typically followed by echoing slams of metal doors and human voices.

Isn’t it strange that the vast majority of the largest and best equipped army of whitetail hunters ever known continues to overlook the fact that sounds made by hunters are a main reason for a lack of hunting success?

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