Busted: Deer Myths
Opening day of rifle season opens this Saturday in eastern North Carolina. While primitive weapon seasons have been open nearly a month, the majority of hunters will be hitting the woods in the next month or two with a rifle in hand. Every year hunters talk about the habits of particular deer and the best ways to tag the local monarch. Commonly mixed into the conversations are tales of the “one that got away.” On the other end of the spectrum there is the one who definitely didn’t get away, and the whole town knows about his massive antlers and the hunter who shot him. This is also a prime time to hear about many myths and suspected abilities that whitetails use to elude hunters. Some of which are true, others are not. Here are a few busted myths.
You can look at a deer’s antlers and tell how old he is. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, older bucks generally have larger antlers but this alone is not capable of proving that. An older buck’s face is usually whiter and more grayish than an immature buck, but once again this is not an accurate indicator of a buck’s age. The best way to age a buck on the hoof is to check out his bodily characteristics, such as his stubby-like legs, deep chest, and swayed back. That being said, the only real way to accurately know a buck’s age is to remove his jawbone after harvest and have a professional biologist examine it or have a cementum annuli test conducted on the jawbone in a lab. These test examine the tooth and the jawbone growth and wear and can tell exactly how old a buck is.
How many times have you sprayed down with a forest scented cover spray? What about fox or raccoon urine to mask that rubber boot smell? As it turns out, the olfactory senses on a whitetail are much more complex than most hunters realize, consisting of roughly 300 million receptors. That’s 60 times greater than the number of a typical human’s olfactory receptors. In other words, a deer doesn’t just smell pine cover scent in the woods, he smells you, and anything that has been absorbed into your clothing such as smoke or where you spilled your coffee in your lap this morning. This is why you should take two steps to make it past a deer’s senses. First spray down with a product that actually kills your scent, not masks it, and then play the wind correctly. Always stay downwind of where you expect a deer to approach your setup. When all is said and done, this the most effective way to evade their senses.
Another common misconception, one that has arguably the most detrimental effects to management, is “once a spike, always a spike.” Once again this has been proven to be false more often than not. Occasionally, you may spot a buck that has inferior genetics and will grow a large set of spike or four point antlers, but this is not generally the case. In reality, the timing of the previous year’s rut, nutrition, and other environmental factors can play a part in a buck’s headgear. Usually a spike is a yearling buck and if given the time, has a real chance at producing a respectable, even trophy set of antlers.
Hopefully these busted myths provided some insight that will produce eventful hunting, help you fill your freezer, and assist in your management goals. This year when sitting around the campfire after the hunt, instead of talking about old wives tales, talk about busted myths and what we now know about whitetail habits and management. It will benefit everyone listening. As always, be safe and good luck!