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Mike Roux: Who has the advantage, the deer or the hunter?

  • Deer have an uncanny sense of smell, which can foil many a hunter.

    Deer have an uncanny sense of smell, which can foil many a hunter.
    BEV HORNE/Daily Herald News Service

 
By Mike Roux
www.mikeroux.com
updated: 1/4/2019 1:44 PM

With the deer season winding down I wanted to fill you in on a great conversation I had while in deer camp this year with my best friend Roger Lewis, and other members of his family. Anytime Roger and I are together it is a good time. As you can imagine, the conversations are varied and quite often extensive. This year was no exception.

One of the topics we discussed over summer sausage and cheese was; who has the advantage in the deer woods, the deer or the hunter? We discussed several different relevant situations, mostly centered on the deer's senses, to see where we might improve our odds. Here are our top choices.

Vision

Who has the advantage? A deer's eyes are really not that good. Deer are colorblind and basically see in shades of gray, much like watching black & white TV. Blaze orange does not really spook them because they are seeing white. Although a large patch of white in the timber is not natural to them, either.

Deer do, however, have the ability to pick up even the slightest movement. Quite often they cannot quickly identify the source of the movement, but it makes them nervous enough to get very cautious. So sitting still is more important than camouflage.

The great advantage for deer is their ability to see clearly in low light conditions and in the dark. The rods and cones in their eyes give them this heightened sense of low light vision.

Now let's look at vision from the hunter's eyes (no pun intended). We see best in the light of day. Our rods and cones are not designed for night vision. We are OK from about a half-hour before sunrise to about a half-hour after sunset. Funny, but those are the exact shooting hours for deer hunting.

But modern day deer hunters have a huge visual advantage over hunters of the past. Today's optics are technically superior to anything we have had previously. Scopes, spotting scopes and binoculars have evolved with the finest glass ever.

So with the optical addition we now have I give the Vision Advantage to the hunter.

Sense of smell

The sensitivity of a deer's olfactory system is nothing short of amazing. Their noses are literally better than bloodhounds'. It is their sense of smell, above all, that keeps them alive to become adult deer.

The ability to pick up scent particles in the few parts per billion gives deer a sense of smell that allows them to detect hunters from great distance. This is especially true when the hunter has not taken precautions against this superior defense mechanism.

So with that knowledge smart hunters now go to great lengths to both hide their scent and produce a scent that might attract the deer. Both can cost a ton of money.

Washing your hunting clothing in a scent-free detergent and hanging them outside helps. Keeping your hunting clothes in a scent-free environment helps. Not using aftershave, deodorant or scented body soaps helps, as well. Not smoking really helps. There are countless things you can try to hide your scent from the deer's nose. But the bottom line is that if you do not know how to use the wind in your favor, you will lose.

I give the Scent Advantage to the deer.

Hearing

Let's face it, a deer has bigger ears than we do. So subsequently you would think they should hear better than us. We should look a bit deeper into what seems like an obvious advantage for the deer.

Not only are a deer's ears larger than ours, but they also rotate 300 degrees, like a radar tower. They can literally "point" their ears in a specific direction. But with all this being said, their actual decibel discernment is not much different from our own.

To stay alive a deer must be able to pick up subtle sounds in the woods. A twig snapping under the weight of a coyote's foot is an example. My experience has proved to me that soft noises get a deer's attention quicker than loud ones.

I have seen deer bolt at the sound that Velcro makes and stand perfectly still for a second shot from a gun. I have seen them run when a branch falls and ignore the sound of a passing vehicle.

This all being said, if we are paying attention in the woods we should be just as good at hearing deer as they ae at hearing us.

I call the Hearing Advantage a tie.

OK. The Advantage score is 1 to 1 with a tie for #3. So if you work hard at doing everything you can you should have just as much chance of getting your deer as he has of living through another season. Be smart, do not be a nincompoop ... be safe. Good luck in the final weeks of this season.

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