Deer have distinct body language, just like humans do. You can decipher what a deer is thinking and possibly predict its next move by observing the body language. Knowing the message the deer is conveying with its body will help you be a more effective hunter by thinking one step ahead.

Lifted Tail

Many animals have a pecking order to establish dominance and you can determine the leader of a group of deer by its tail. If the tail is lifted so that it’s in a straight line with its back, that is the dominant deer. Make note of this while looking through your trail camera footage. If the leader has brought their group to your location more than once, they’ve obviously deemed it worthy of exploration and will most likely set up camp nearby.

Ear Drop

A mature buck will convey his status of dominance to a younger buck by an “ear drop.” This is when the mature buck lowers his ears so that they stick out from the head in a straight line. It is a sign of dominance, but it isn’t meant to be extremely threatening. It is the equivalent of a stern look from a parent. If you’re not sure which deer is more mature between two deer, seeing this body language will help make it clear.

Spotted a Rival Deer

During the rut season, deer will be ready to spar with any other threatening deer. If you spot a deer with its ears back, head down, staring at a specific spot, another deer is close by. Deer don’t usually make eye-contact, so staring at the other deer is a high-level threat. Be prepared for another deer to come into view and a fight to break out.

Tail Wagging

When a deer swishes its tail side-to-side, like a dog wagging its tail, it has determined that the coast is clear. The deer is letting its group know it’s safe to emerge. When you see a deer give this signal, remain still for a few more moments. If you rush to pull the trigger as soon as you see the sign, you’ll likely startle the deer and cause them to run off. When the deer gives the signal, they will still look around for another moment to make sure their assessment was correct. Once it puts its head back down, then you are clear.

Unsure Foot Stomp

When a deer lifts his front foot up and stomps the ground, he is releasing scent and alerting others that there is potential danger. The vibrations caused by the stomp are widespread and can alert deer that might not even be nearby. Though this is an alert message, it means the deer is unsure of exactly what the danger is. It hasn’t identified you as a hunter yet, so you might still have a chance. Stay still and wait it out to see if the deer goes back to its business.

High Alert

When a deer’s ears are turned outward, with the ear canal facing forward, and their head is high in the air, that means they’ve spotted danger. That danger is most likely a hunter. Their whole face will be pointed towards the danger. Their nose will be high in the air so they can detect scent. If you see a deer in this position from your blind, they’ve spotted you, so either take your shot or be prepared for it to run away.

Learning basic deer body language will help you determine the right time to take your shot and whether you should wait for more deer to arrive. It could mean the difference between startled deer and a successful harvest.

Are you able to read deer body language? What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Leonard Edwards on December 26, 2020 at 7:51 am

    I believe when a deer is spooked and starts to leave in a trot or slow lope, if their tail is lifted and waving side to side, the deer is still curious and likely to stop, giving you another opportunity for a shot if you wait.

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