Does Gunshot Noise Spook Deer?

By GrowingDeer,

  Filed under: Hunting Blog, White-tailed Deer

Does the noise of a gunshot spook deer? The answer is “it depends.” I doubt deer are born with knowledge that the noise of a gun or the smell of burnt powder is often associated with danger.

deer by trap range in Sparta, IL

Deer can be conditioned to accept or reject smells and noises they associate with danger.

Deer often learn from experiences and other deer to fear many of the sources of danger they face. For example deer certainly run from low flying helicopters when I’m doing aerial surveys in south Texas. However, deer commonly feed close by pads where the helicopter refuels frequently. They’ve obviously learned or been conditioned to accept the helicopter in that area as something that doesn’t present danger whereas the same helicopter flying low over the brush spooks 100’s of deer.

A friend recently shared a great example of how deer learn or can be conditioned to accept or reject smells, noises, etc., as a source of danger. Recently the National Scholastic Clay Trap Program (SCTP) meet was held in Sparta, IL. There were 3,000+ shooters that shot 700,000+ rounds during four days. It was constant shooting from early until late each day.

My friend Dan Appelbaum’s son was participating in the SCTP meet. During a round with shooters up and down the line for literally hundreds of yards deer starting feeding 80 yards or so directly in front of the trap house where Dan’s son was shooting!

The deer didn’t seem overly alert. In fact it distracted the shooters much more than the deer. Clearly the deer living in that area are conditioned to gun shots, the smell of gun powder, gun oil, humans, etc.

I’m sure just a short distance away a gunshot would cause deer to seek cover instantly if it was pointed directly at them.

This same knowledge of deer behavior can be applied to the presence of ATV’s, etc. If deer are conditioned to their presence and don’t have a reason to associate them with danger, it’s doubtful deer alter their activity patterns when they are present. If the source of the disturbance is new then deer probably become very alert and alter their activity patterns. Hunters need to consider these observations when they are scouting and hunting.

Growing Deer together,