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Holy Grail of Hunting? Part 2 - The Truth about Hearing.

Last week I included part 1 of an article I wrote including what I feel is THE biggest area hunters do not understand about whitetail, and that if understood can improve their chances of success in THE biggest way. It appeared in North American Whitetail Magazine's September 2016 issue. I called it the "Holy Grail" of hunting, and this week is part 2 of that article. You'll want to check out part 1 if you have not read it already



Now, let’s look an arguably more valuable sense to deer, hearing. Over the past years I’ve done extensive scientific research on deer hearing, tests on live deer, and laboratory tests on typical noises hunter’s make. Here’s a summary of my findings:

*normal sounds hunters make travel very far (hundreds of yards to ½ mile or more).

*deer hear the best at key frequencies in which hunters make noise (crunching leaves, breaking branches, clanging equipment, etc.).

*deer hearing is ultrasonic, or they can hear much higher frequencies than humans (over twice as high).

What does this mean for hunters? Basically, it boils down to this: hunters make noise in the woods that travels further than we think, we make noise we can’t hear that deer can hear very well, and deer are wired specifically to hear these noises. Translated, getting past their ears is tough, but essential for hunters to have a chance at success. There are two more key discoveries, however, that reveal the long-sought weak link in the whitetail’s defenses.


With the above being true about vision and hearing, then the whitetail is only at full advantage when they are working well, and in tandem. They are made to work together, they are supposed to work together, and they are crucially linked together. Dr. Henry Heffner, Dr. of Psychology at the University of Toledo, is an expert on animal hearing. With a years of testing, research, and numerous scientific publications, his work is exhaustive. In one study, he tested the hearing of 24 different mammals (from humans to cows, rats, and horses) and compared it to their visual ability to locate sound sources. What he discovered was profound. He found that:

  1. The primary function of hearing is to direct visual attention for further analysis. This means that hearing in mammals, and whitetail deer, is a cue. It is what I call a trigger sense, that is designed as a trip, a cue for a whitetail’s eyes to kick in and to tell them where to look for danger, and in particular where to look for threats. Basically, if a whitetail doesn’t hear, it doesn’t know to look, or where to look for danger.

  2. Mammals with broad fields of vision (such as whitetail- 310 degrees), require less accurate information regarding the location of a sound source to scrutinize it. So whitetail, with acute hearing, and also a broad field of vision, are particularly keen at locking in on the source of the slightest sound.

These two key discoveries have huge implications for hunters. It is evident that deer hear well, and when they hear a sound will scan the area with their wide field of view for danger, and be off in a flash. However, the flip side of this coin reveals the long-sought achilles heal of whitetail deer. To simplify, let’s look at it like an equation. Basically:

Hunter noise + visual scrutiny by whitetail = BUSTED!

Simple, right? However, the genius of the simplicity was seen on that wet day in Ohio when I walked up on two does completely undetected. If we simply remove one element from the equation, hunter noise, then the whitetail received no cue to visually scrutinize anything, and the “BUSTED” part is never reached. By getting past a whitetail’s sense of hearing, we can also completely bypass their keen eyes, even if they can clearly see us. Again, hearing is the trigger, and if it’s not tripped, there is a very good chance their eyes won’t even know what they are looking at. It’s a two for one deal, and one that can be greatly leveraged and exploited to your advantage.


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