You Spooked a Deer – Now What?

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Your anticipation is high as you sneak toward your favorite treestand. You make the final approach painstakingly slow to ensure silence. Just when you think you got in clean, you hear a deer fleeing. You cringe. You blew your cover. Now what?

Document the Bed

Make note of where you spooked the deer. Photo Credit: Deer Lab

Spooking a deer doesn’t end your hunt. It provides valuable intel about the animal’s bedding area, which helps youplan future hunts. Check your map and mark the exact site where the deer bedded. Also, note the weather conditions, especially wind direction. Deer usually bed with the wind at their back, and face where they can see danger before it can pose a threat. By marking the bedding area and noting the conditions, you might be able to approach the site and hunt it undetected next time.

Assess the Situation

Stay still for a moment afterward to see if the deer comes back. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Spooked deer will return to their bedding area, but when they return depends on how much the intrusion frightened them. If they can’t pinpoint the threat, they’ll likely return sooner than if they saw or smelled you.

You can evaluate your impact on a deer by studying its body language. A quietly bumped deer saunters off quietly without snorting to alert other deer of danger. It might stop often to look for the possible threat, but will stay relatively calm if it doesn’t see it. Deer often circle downwind of the bedding area and J-hook toward the bed with the wind in their face. The “bump-and-dump” is a savvy tactic crafted by Dan Infalt in which the bowhunter sets up downwind of a deer’s bed after bumping it. The goal is to intercept the deer when it returns hours later from downwind.

Even deer that blow from a site after seeing and smelling a threat might tolerate intrusion, but it might be awhile before they return. They clearly identified a threat, and quickly escaped while blowing repeatedly as they crashed through brush at top speed. The bump-and-dump is less effective in such situations because the deer won’t return soon after being frightened off.

But the damage is done, so use this time to thoroughly scout the area. Drop a waypoint at the bedding location and use satellite imagery to study alternative entry and exit routes that’ll help you return undetected later. Avoid the spot for a few days to let things return to normal, and monitor the weather forecast. Plan to return another day with weather conditions that help you navigate the new access route quietly from downwind. By setting up near a site where you anticipate deer travel, you can capitalize on information gained from earlier hunts.

Stay Aggressive

Continue to hunt areas where you’ve spooked a deer. Photo Credit: John Hafner

It’s easy to get discouraged when hunts don’t go as planned. Spooking deer isn’t good, but it can help you identify bedding areas and escape routes in new locations. Once you identify these areas and hunt their fringes, your odds of seeing deer in bow range during shooting hours increase drastically. Stay mobile and adjust your setups so you can hunt deer where they spend most of their time: their bedroom.


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