Whitetail Science: How Well Do Deer Hear?

MT buck flop earYears ago as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab, Gino D’Angelo put whitetails in a sound-testing booth and monitored their brainwaves to see how the animals responded to different sounds and frequencies. (Dr. D’Angelo is now is an Assistant Professor of Deer Ecology and Management at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.)

Here are 4 things Dr. D’Angelo and his colleagues found about the whitetail’s sense of hearing:

Deer do not hear that much better than we do! The frequency of sound is measured in hertz. Studies have found that a healthy human can hear from 20 to 20,000 hertz, with our best and most sensitive range from 2,000 to 5,000 hertz. The researchers found that deer hear best at moderate frequencies of 3,000 to 8,000 hertz. To put perspective on it, both our normal speech and most deer vocalizations fall within these frequency ranges. So while deer generally vocalize at lower frequencies than we talk, they hear similarly.

Low-frequency sounds travel farther and can be heard better by deer at greater distances than high-frequency sounds. A good example is a hunter walking in the woods, crunching leaves. Deer can hear that, so go slow and carefully and step as quietly as you can. Human speech is a moderate frequency sound that is well within the peak hearing range of deer. Talk softly and whisper in the woods. As Dr. D’Angelo says, “The deer are listening.”

How deer use their ears makes us think the animals can hear a lot better than we can. Deer ears are like tiny satellite dishes that tip back and forth and roll around to pick up, sort out and lock in on various sounds in the woods. Think about this, because you’ve probably been there. A buck is within 100 yards and hears you bang your bow or gun, or scrape your boots on a metal platform; you watch him work his ears, look your way and start stamping his foot. Wow, those ears are amazing and almost supernatural, you think. But Dr. D’Angelo points out that the animal is simply reacting to a strange and potentially dangerous sound in his environment, in much the same way that we jump and look if we hear a sudden horn or a car backfire nearby.

The sounds and frequencies of grunt calls match well with the whitetail’s hearing. As an off-shoot of this study, the researchers analyzed several brands of grunt calls to see how they aligned with the hearing of deer. All the calls produced similar sounds with the strongest frequency range between 3,000 and 4,000 hertz—well in tune for a doe or buck to hear your grunts.

Dr. D’Angelo points out that while your grunt call sounds true and is well tuned to a deer’s hearing, it is not as loud as you think. So if you’re “calling blind” with no deer in sight, don’t be afraid to grunt loudly, especially during the rut. There’s a good chance that somewhere out there in the woods an old 8-pointer will roll his ears and home in on your stand. Keep grunting and with luck he’ll come.

 

Athens Georgia: Hotbed Of Deer Information and Research

qdma shed tree

You might know that Athens is a vibrant college town, home to the SEC Bulldogs. Did you also know it’s the epicenter of whitetail research and deer-hunting information in America? Last week the BIG DEER TV crew took a road trip to check it out.

First stop, headquarters of the Quality Deer Management Association. I stepped in the front door and naturally checked out the shed tree in the corner. It’s built with an antler from every state and province where whitetail deer are found. Impressive, and they tell me it weighs more than a ton.

qdma brian

I sat down for a lengthy talk with Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA and one of the top deer biologists in the country. This man knows the state of the whitetail across North America in 2018.

Brian explained that after several tough years, notably 2011-2014 when winters were harsh in some regions and big outbreaks of Hemorrhagic Disease killed numbers of deer in other areas, things are looking up. Deer herds are generally doing well, and prospects for the 2018 season are good.

But all is not rosy. Brian pointed to some major issues issues on the horizon.

First, and the elephant in the room, is Chronic Wasting Disease.

cwd map 24 states

CWD, first documented in deer in Colorado in 1967, has now been confirmed in 24 states, 3 Canadian provinces and 2 foreign countries. CWD is found only in hoofed animals such as deer, elk, and moose. The disease affects an animal’s nervous system. Infected deer lose weight, wander aimlessly, salivate and eventually die. It is always fatal.

CWD is affecting the core of why we hunt—to bring home the venison. While no cases of CWD in humans have been confirmed, there is fear that could change. In a Canadian study three of five primates contracted the disease after eating meat from CWD-infected animals.

Brian’s advice: If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, DO NOT eat the meat until you have it tested and confirmed CWD-free.

Second big issue: Decline of hunters across North America.

Recent surveys reveal that only 5% of Americans age 16 and up hunt today. That’s half of what it was 50 years ago. The number of licensed hunters, by far most of them deer hunters, dropped from 14.2 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016. Most disturbing, the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decades.

Fewer hunters buying licenses and guns and ammunition equals less dollars for state wildlife conservation departments. If we do not stop this negative trend, the consequences will be severe. There are already reports that dollars for CWD research are drying up, and that’s the last thing we need.

Brian Murphy said QDMA is making a big push to continue youth hunter recruitment, and also to bring in more adults, 20-, 30- and 40-something men and women who might well want to to hunt deer, but who were never exposed to hunting as kids.

dr miller deer lab

Next, I drove across town to check out the Deer Lab at the University of Georgia. This is one cool place. Under the tutelage of Dr. Karl Miller for the past 30 years, the Deer Lab has grown from one small pen to an impressive collection of buildings and enclosures where landmark whitetail research is ongoing.

Dr. Miller gave us the tour, where we observed and filmed collared does and fawns and  bucks in velvet. We checked out rooms where deer are exposed to lights and monitors to check their vision. Dr. Gino D’Angelo explained studies he has conducted on how deer hear, and GPS-collar projects that track deer movements.

To a whitetail junkie like you and me, all kids of fascinating stuff.

Set your DVR and watch this episode of BIG DEER TV Wednesday, August 29 at 7:30 PM on Sportsman Channel.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Maine Deer Kill Highest In A Decade

maine meat poleDeer hunters in Maine harvested 27,233 deer in 2017, the highest total in the last ten years and an increase of 15% from 2016.

“An increasing deer herd in southern and central Maine, and favorable hunting conditions contributed to the best deer hunting season in ten years,” said Nathan Bieber, Maine deer biologist.

Maine’s deer hunt is broken down into several seasons for firearm hunters, muzzleloaders and bow hunters. Most deer are harvested during the general firearms season (23,288), which started on October 28th and continued until November 25. Bowhunters took 2,099 deer, and hunters took 970 deer during the muzzleloading season. Maine’s junior hunters were also very successful on youth day, with 876 youth hunters taking a deer this year.

Adult bucks comprised the vast majority of the harvest, with hunters taking 18,255 antlered bucks. With 66,050 anterless permits issued, hunters harvested 8,978 antlerless deer.

According to surveys, on average Maine deer hunters spent 37 hours hunting deer during the season, averaging 4.3 hours afield each trip.

DIY: Man Turns 250-Pound Tank Into BBQ Cooker (Plus How To Roast Deer)

Just in time for the first weekend of summer, our friend Matt “Flatlander” Cheever tells us about his awesome DIY BBQ project, plus provides tips for roasting venison:

Sometimes sitting around a campfire dreaming up projects, schemes and adventures with our buddies is the best part of deer camp.  In one of those conversations among friends I was offered a free 250-gallon propane tank. “Wouldn’t that make a great BBQ pit,” we all reckoned. “You could put it on a trailer and make it mobile.”

I like a challenge… But maybe I bit off more than I could chew?

Six years and several thousand dollars later my “free” project is finished! It’s worth every penny!

bbq pit blog 1

Fifty-five pounds of welding wire, two different trailers (single axle wasn’t enough) and the pit is done. It will last for decades, feed thousands and bring together friends and family for a common bond, something we need a lot more of in this country.

bbq pit blog 004 bbq pit blog 002

Thirty-two-hundred pounds of pure steel beauty is now rolling smoke and cooking hogs, venison, turkey, fish and anything else that walks or comes into range.

This dream kind of started with the idea of roasting a whole deer. As with cooking a whole hog, it would be a striking visualization. But in all honesty, it’s better to do deer quarters or roasts so as not to over-cook prime cuts. So here’s how you do it:

bbq pit blog 005

–De-bone or bone-in is fine. Either way, I like to inject the deer meat with Creole butter and garlic from the Cajun injector company. Then I smear it with a thick coating of yellow mustard (don’t worry you won’t taste any mustard once the meat is roasted, it tenderizes the venison and turns to almost a BBQ crust). Then season with salt and black pepper.

–Roast the meat on your cooker about an hour a pound at 250 degrees…wrap in foil it after two hours (meat only takes on smoke for two hours anyway). It doesn’t hurt to baste the meat during cooking with a beer or apple juice, or maybe even hard cider in the fall.

–Pull the meat off at 165 degrees internal temp if you want to slice it like a thin steak or brisket. Pull it off at 195 degrees if you want to shred it. I like to let the meat sit and rest a good 20-30 minutes after coming off the cooker.

–If you plan to cook a large back quarter of a deer, you may want to drape some bacon or pork belly over the roast to hold moisture and keep it from drying out.

–When the meat is done, serve it in soft-shell tacos, on a bun or however you like, but be sure to do it while sitting around a fire with your buddies, scheming up your next crazy idea! Be safe, God bless and BBQ on–Flatlander

 

Why Do Deer Jump The Bow String?

early season bowhunting

Hey Mike: Wondering if you could settle a friendly argument. A buddy and I were discussing deer jumping the string. I say it is all noise related and they instinctively react; he says it could also be visual—they see the arrow coming. Wondering your thoughts? Also, do you ever see a bow being fast enough that you don’t have to worry about them jumping the string or is that impossible? Thanks–Jake in WI

Jake, you win, it’s an instinctive reaction. I heard a guy say one time, “It’s like when somebody blows a horn or sets off a firecracker close, you jump.” When a deer hears your bow go off in his natural environment, same thing.

I’ve heard people say a deer might see the arrow and react…I guess it’s possible a doe or buck might glimpse the blur of an arrow out the corner of their eye, but I doubt it happens often.

Actually, “jumping the string” is a misnomer, it should be called “ducking and rolling.” Doe or buck hears your bow go off, drops its chest down toward the ground and whirls to run in one motion. Can’t see it with the eye, but watch a slow-motion video of it, and it’s amazing.

Some deer drop at the bow sound, others don’t. Unpredictability has to do with distance to deer, quietness of bow, foliage that does/does not muffle sound, etc. You never know, so hold the correct sight pin on bottom third of the vitals. Deer drops, you pierce mid to high lungs; deer does not drop, you sear heart/low lungs. Either way, you kill deer.

I suck at physics, but I understand the speed of sound is around 1,126 fps while the fastest compound bow shoots an arrow at 360 fps or so. So no, I am reasonably sure there will never be a bow that propels an arrow that deer cannot jump (or rather duck).