How smart are Deer?

How smart are deer?

Deer can do a pretty good job of figuring out the big things in life, like where to go find food, water, shelter. They know the difference between a predator that wants to eat them and one that does not. I frequently stop the car and roll down the window and talk to deer beside the road. They just stand and watch me. This is different from turkeys, which will flee from a human at 500 yards.

Little things escape them. I had a doe wind me the other day. It was one of those 20-30 mph days where you keep checking your safety belt. She came in on my precise downwind side and snorted and stamped for several minutes before running off. An hour later, she came back with her friend in tow and entered the area from a crosswind angle and never bothered to think about what she’d smelled before.

What is really interesting is what happened after I shot the lead doe. Her buddy completely ignored the cloud of acrid smoke that blew over her from my muzzleloader and casually walked over and stood around her friend, taking a serious dirt nap. I watched for a full 20 minutes, while she waited for the dead deer to get up and move. Meanwhile, I was rummaging around, getting my gear together and calling for the truck to come pick me up. In the end, the doe just flicked her tail and walked off munching stuff as she went.

I’ve seen deer walk over gut piles, and snort at stumps with arrows sticking in them. I’ve shot a doe in the chest only to have her walk directly over to my stand and take a second and then a third shot. Mortality is not a real clear subject to them.

Deer live in the moment. They can deduce that if they wind you several times in one spot, they will avoid that area, or be very wary when they come through. However, they will not write off a stand site from one season to the next. I have missed a deer one weekend, and nailed the same deer a week later.

Deer do not see the big picture. If deer could deduce what we were up to, they would be un-huntable. They see us as a nuisance. When the orange army descends on them, they retreat. However, I have never seen that pattern last for long. We had muzzleloaders going off all weekend. The week before was youth season, and there were rifle shots from morning until night. Have the deer figured out yet what is going on? I doubt it. I am sure I could go back to the stand I went to three weeks ago or two weeks ago, and see deer.

On the other hand . . . I’ve seen a smart old doe run from my muzzleloader as I raise it and then suddenly stop, letting the bullet pass in front of her nose. She then went back to eating grass and flicking her tail. How she knew I was no longer a threat is beyond me. Perhaps she was too stupid to realize what was going on, or perhaps she was trying to draw me out and miss. Who knows?

"How smart are Deer?", 5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings.


How smart are Deer? — 4 Comments

  1. Personally, I like to think that the variation in the deer population is every bit as wide as the variation in intelligence in the human population. Some are geniuses, and others couldn’t beat a stump at paper-rock-scissors.

    I think they universally have a kind of Zen attitude, though. Makes ’em eerie.


  2. Generally I do not learn article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look
    at and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.

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