There are a lot of things a buck will do, one of which is let you know exactly what's on his mind. The catch is that you have to know how to pick up on his cues. Although some game animals will vocalize and therefore give you an idea as to what their state of mind might be, that is not something that happens with whitetail deer. Instead of using your ears to understand the mood and intentions of deer, you are going to have to use your eyes to recognize and understand their actions.
Deciphering the meaning behind behaviors and body language is important in calculating your next move. For example, if you can recognize signs of interest versus disinterest or even fear versus aggression, you can change your course of action in order to counter in such a way that brings the deer closer to where you want them. Though you may at times encounter an indifferent deer that shows no reaction whatsoever when you call, there are many other scenarios in which deer will have plenty to say via body language. Here are some behavior clues for which to watch:
The sign of an interested deer that heard your call is a raised head with forward ears. You have the attention of this deer but he may not yet be committed. Once you know he's paying attention, give him time and watch to see his next move. You could call again but continued observation before doing so puts the odds in your favor. Oh the flip side, a deer with ears back is showing aggression. This is the deer to which you want to continue to issue calls as he will be very likely to respond.
Just as important as the front of the deer is the back of the deer. A tail that is tucked is a sign of fear or nervousness. That deer will likely waste no time getting out of dodge because he feels that something is amiss. If you have a clear shot at such a deer, there won't be much time to waste in taking it before a deer like this gets moving and calling will likely encourage him on his way. However, a tail that is flicking casually is an indicator of a relaxed state and such a deer is more likely to stick around.
Photo: Deer and Deer Hunting
Although we as human have the hair on the back of our necks stand up as a fear reaction, hair standing up on deer is a sign of aggression instead. A buck with hair standing stiffly is possibly trying to present as a bigger adversary, but one thing is for sure: he's ready for a fight. Calling to this buck will likely yield results as he's already revved up and ready to go.
The stomping of feet is another sign that a deer may be nervous. When you observe this, it is usually an indication that a deer is on edge for one reason or another and in such a situation, it is best not to push your luck by issuing calls. Watch and wait to see if the deer relaxes but be prepared as well that he may not stick around.
When taking body language and behaviors into account, it is important to look at the big picture. Though several small pieces of the puzzle can indicate one thing or another, it is the whole puzzle that really tells the story. You may see a deer that has hair standing on end, indicating aggression, but also has a clamped tail and stiff gait, both of which could indicate a bit of nervousness. It is in situations such as this that it is important to watch and wait so that you can play your hand at the most opportune time in the best manner possible, bringing home that sought after buck.
Are there any body language or behaviors you look for in particular? What actions do you take when you see them? Let us know in the comments.