Have you ever been in a blind or treestand during deer season, when suddenly a deer blows at you, almost like an exaggerated sneeze, and runs off into the woods?
It’s a common occurrence when hunting whitetail deer…we’ve all been there!
But do whitetail bucks blow? And more importantly, what does it mean and is that big buck spooked?
In this article, we’ll dig into what causes whitetail bucks to blow, what it means, and what you can do about it.
What Is Blowing?
“Blowing” or “snorting” is a sound that all deer make. A deer will loudly force air out through its nostrils like an exaggerated sneeze that makes an aggressive “shhh” sound.
It is usually done more by does than by bucks to protect their fawn, but young bucks are known to blow pretty frequently as well.
The basic reason for blowing is to warn intruders or predators that the deer is aware of its presence. Blowing is also used as an alarm system to warn other deer in the vicinity that there is a perceived threat nearby and to be on high alert.
Why Do Bucks Blow?
While blowing is used to signal that a threat is nearby, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a sign to run. Bucks typically blow to signal a perceived threat.
Body language, like stomping feet, tail flicks, and tail flairs are usually associated with visual confirmation of the perceived threat and signals to other deer to run.
Although not as common, bucks have been known to blow at things they are curious about. Sometimes that’s a doe that is of particular interest during the rut, other times it could be a curious human passing by.
If a buck blows at you, trots a few feet away and continues to feed, then chances are that it was blowing as a sign of curiosity and doesn’t see you as a threat.
Deer sometimes will blow to clear their airway. As animals that rely heavily on their sense of smell to keep them safe, they must keep their airways clear so they can pick up on unfamiliar scents from a safe distance.
The Role Scent Plays In Blowing
Deer have an exceptional sense of smell and will run away from any scent that is unfamiliar to them. If a human is upwind of a buck and it picks up a substantial whiff of them, it will blow and turn tail and run.
It is important to note that deer can’t smell you if your scent is traveling in the opposite direction. As a hunter, it is important to always stay downwind of traveling or feeding deer to conceal your presence from them. Also, use scent control methods to help keep your scent under wraps.
Deer have a scent threshold. A subtle whiff of a human might not be enough to cause them to bolt for cover or blow if they think that you’re far away and not a threat.
However, if a buck gets a nose full of human scent, then it will definitely blow at you and alert other deer in the area to your presence.
If it bolts for cover, then you probably won’t see it again for quite a while. If it’s not too scared, then it will trot a few feet and resume feeding.
Deer also become accustomed to scents they smell all the time, so a deer that lives in a forested suburb is more likely to tolerate humans and some interaction than a young buck that lives deep in the backcountry.
It’s all about what smells familiar.
Related: Can Deer Smell Thermacell?
Did Blowing Ruin The Hunt?
Just because a buck blows it doesn’t mean that your cover has been blown or that the hunt is over. Depending on how frightened the buck is, it might return if you wait long enough.
Some young bucks also blow to the point of excess and sort of become the buck that cries wolf.
If a buck blows frequently and no credible threat is ever discerned, then other deer in the area will learn to ignore its signal.
Check For Deer Body Language
If you can see a buck when it blows at you, look for the body language that accompanies the blow for a serious threat.
If there isn’t hoof stomping, tail flicking, or tail flaring, then it means the buck doesn’t have visual confirmation of you and will probably stick around.
You can also tell how likely you are to see a buck again by the way it runs off after it blows.
If it trots off upright at a moderate pace, then chances are that it’s gone about 200 yards away and will eventually calm down and return to your area.
However, if it bolts off at full speed while staying close to the ground, then the buck is very scared and he will not likely return to that area for several days
Don’t be too discouraged though, there are a handful of things you can do once you’ve been blown at to hopefully salvage your hunt.
What Can You Do After A Blow To Calm Things Down?
The simplest thing you can do to salvage your hunt after you’ve been blown at is to blow back. You read that right. Blow back at the buck or make a grunting sound. Returning the blow often piques the curiosity of the buck in question or other deer in the area, and they will sometimes come back to the area to investigate.
Grunting frequently has the same effect. Deer are not used to having an intruder blow back at them, and they will cautiously return to the area to search for another deer or the source of the blow or gunt.
Another thing you can do is use a squirrel call. This signals to the deer that the perceived threat is actually just a normal thing that belongs in the forest with it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well if the buck has alerted because of your scent.
If you accidentally stepped on a twig or shifted wrong, the squirrel call might be able to salvage a bad situation.
Sometimes, its best to just back out of the area and give it a few days to cool off. If the buck is spooked really bad, he may resort to nighttime activity, so you may need to adjust your stand location closer to his bed.
Deer blowing is a natural response to a perceived threat, but without visual confirmation of the threat, a buck might stick around.
Watch for body language cues, how fast the deer runs off, and check your scent before deciding to call it quits.
Having a buck blow is never a good thing, but it might not be the end of your hunt.
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