Sound Management - Essential Whitetail Hunting Practice
You manage your land, scent impact, and every detail of the hunt, but you may be missing one key practice that could make all the difference!
The vault door closed, and for the first time in my life I understood what dead silence was. The sound-proof chamber at the University of Toledo made it impossible to hear any sounds from the outside world, only those from within. Small noises a human usually doesn’t even notice were gone: the humm of a computer, the soft chirp of a bird outside the window, and it was a bit eerie. For the next two hours, if an atomic bomb went off out there, I wouldn’t know. The microphones were hot, and I set about the task of seeing how loud, how broad, and just how intrusive some of the noises common to hunters really are. Crunchy leaves, dry grasses, brush, twigs of all sizes and varieties, solid and hollow steel, aluminum, plastic of all sorts, and a wide variety of other materials were tested systematically and data recorded. When I finally emerged from my time capsule, the world was still intact, and some of the big questions regarding hunter noises were well on their way to being answered.
Hunters have always known they should be quiet, but what does that really mean? If you ask a hundred different hunters, you will get a hundred different answers because these questions have been left to guesswork over the years. However with some real data on hunter noises, and whitetail hearing, hunters can know the actual impact of noises they make. Knowing is half the battle, the other half is what to do about it!
Knowing: the science in a nutshell
After analyzing dozens of these hunter sounds, a striking story emerged. At first glance, the graphs of these sounds were as varied as the items tested. I didn’t expect crunching leaves to have the exact frequency spectrum as steel climbing sticks, but I did see a strong pattern: the frequencies where whitetail hear the best, matched frequencies where a majority of hunter sounds peaked, or were loudest. Second, from the average intensity(loudness) recorded, travel distances were calculated with some astonishing results. Sounds ranged from 100 yards carry distance, to over 1000 yards with some hunter noises(this is over half a mile)! Third, most of the tested hunter noises had frequencies well above what is audible to a human. From this, a few conclusions were made:
Hunter noises are heard very well by whitetail.
Hunter noises travel very far into whitetail habitat.
Whitetail hear frequencies we make that we don’t even hear.
The main takeaway to all this was introducing some sound management to our arsenal is key to improving our hunting areas and hunting success!
The Other Half: what to do about it?
Sound Management Key #1: It’s a habit!
Sound management is about managing our gear, movements, and practices to eliminate any and all noise made while in your hunting area. We’ve probably all heard that it takes a month to develop or break a habit. If this is true, that’s about one third of most hunting seasons around the country. Honestly, I think it takes several seasons to start implementing tactics, and changing our thinking to consistently include sound management practices. This article won’t
detail every little tip to do this, (if you want some specifics, visit our website soundbarrierhunting.com) but is designed to encourage the continual habit of thinking about how to manage and eliminate noises we make. Key #1 is simply this: start developing the habit now, and the solutions will start presenting themselves before that season-ruining, noisy mistake is made in September, October, or November!
Sound Management Key 2: It takes PROactivity
The pun is intended here, as there are two angles to look at this key point. First, its a Pro activity. Pro’s, or let’s call them top-level hunters, know sound management activities are key to success and take them very seriously. So should you! From my research, it doesn’t take a very loud sound for it to travel great distance and reach the ear of a whitetail. Unless we hunt over half a mile from where whitetail bed (and sometimes this isn’t enough depending on terrain, ambient noise, and other factors), you had better take great caution when coming/going to stands, setting stands, or in hunting areas for any reason. It only takes one errant noise to tip off a wary whitetail that they’re being hunted, and when that happens the entire area is tainted regardless of what other “precautions” you are taking (the latest camouflage, scents, scent reduction systems, and having the best name brands can’t undo this). I think many times we don’t realize the pressure we put on our stands due to poor sound management, and how many deer avoid those areas due to this. It might be due to the fact it is hard to absolutely prove correlation, or why whitetail behaviors change. However, several collared buck studies over the last few years show just how much human intrusion does affect deer behavior (Clint McCoy’s Auburn University study; Karns study at Chesapeake Farms to name a few). The main point is taking sound management seriously separates the men from the boys, or the very successful from the kind-of successful hunters.
Second, it’s not only an activity that very successful hunters take, but sound management also takes being proactive. Most hunters I’d say are reactive. They just try to be quiet in the moment and do the best they can. To really focus on sound management, it needs to be thoroughly thought about and a planned out months before you set foot into the woods. What gear do you need to silence? How do you plan to do this? How will you hang stands silently? What will you do to ensure silent entry/exit routes? These are all things that need to be proactively, not reactively, decided and acted on before the big day if you truly want to reap the benefits of sound management.
Sound Management Key #3: It’s a long climb!
Like all good things that add great value to life, becoming skilled at the practice of sound management takes time, effort, and dedication. Last summer while vacationing in Colorado, I decided I would climb Long’s peak, a daunting 14’er (hiker slang for a 14,000 foot mountain, and quite an accomplishment to summit) with dangerous technical sections. The grueling trek started at 2:30 in the morning with several hundred others. For three hours we pushed through fog and thousands of feet of elevation change only guided by our meager headlamps. Numerous times I wondered what on earth I was doing. As dawn approached,
however, and the sun peaked over the mountains revealing clouds below and a majestic landscape as far as I could see, the reward became very clear.
Sound management is similar, maybe a long climb, but with a big payoff at the end. Over the years I’ve been implementing these strategies I’ve seen a steady increase in sightings and success, and in contrast seen others that do not implement them see very mediocre success rates, sporadic results, and lots of frustration. Like any practice it’s difficult to quantitatively measure over time, but when you consistently hold the results in your hands, it’s easy to see that sound management is a crucial part of any serious hunters management regimen. (For more about sound management see our other blogs. To see more on the hunter sounds tested, visit our home page to see our sound carry distance chart)