Give deer credit for surviving

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2001

Each year thousands of hunters search the forests and fields of Alabama in pursuit of white-tailed deer. Occasionally hunters are successful in seeing or taking a deer, but the majority of these days afield, hunters get no closer to a deer than seeing some tracks or hearing an occasional deer snort. Many of these hunters justify an unproductive day with comments such as "we don’t have the deer we used to have," or "what’s happened to the deer?" These hunters rarely admit or acknowledge the fact that the deer they are hunting have simply avoided them. Deer are quick learners, if they do not associate danger with humans theybecome tolerant of human activity. But make no mistake about it, if they associate danger with humans they can and do become masters at avoiding people.

One of the most popular ways of hunting deer is from an elevated stand or ground blind in areas where we think deer are traveling or feeding. When we examine what deer feed on, how they feed, and how they process food, it’s easy to see how they use survival adaptations to avoid the modem deer hunter. Deer are primarily browsers, feeding mostly on buds, twigs, leaves and fruits.

A deer’s hearing and eyesight is very good, but its sense of smell is excellent. If a deer hunter disregards wind direction and hunts where the wind carries his scent in the area he expects the deer to travel, he has put himself at a areat disadvantage. A deer may lose interest or disregard something they see or hear if they cannot associate it with humans or danger. However, the faintest smell of a human is unmistakable to a deer and a loud snort may signal your presence.

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Deer have survived predation long before recorded history and will continue to refine and perfect their survival skills to confront the challenges of the modern deer hunter.