How To: Read a Bucks Body Language

Field Tactics: Deer Awareness

Casey Keefer

If you mention the rut to any whitetail hunter our imagination can run wild. Images of chasing, scraping and fighting abound. But many times, when you pay attention to a bucks body language when there just “being a deer” you can start to learn more about your surroundings, the time of year and quite possibly any given bucks status in the pecking order. Here’s a few things to look for:

1. Attitude

just like humans, each buck is unique and has his own personality. Some are a bit aloof and others look like they’re going to start a straight up donnybrook with whatever deer crosses their path next. Younger bucks like to live on the edge of their existence – constantly looking and listening. Older bucks approach cautiously, not always, but most of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat and watched deer in a food plot and had this play out : Young buck enters the plot early and feeds at free will…suddenly, he begins to move with a bit more purpose while still feeding. A few minutes later, he finds himself on the edge of the plot with a quick escape route…low and behold…and old mature buck steps out in completely the opposite direction of the youngsters line of movement. To me that says, he smelled him, heard him or saw him…heck probably even all three – and when he did, because I paid attention to his attitude and his body language he alerted me to the old bucks presence…even though I couldn’t see him myself – and that alone gave me plenty of time to get ready real nice and easy.

2. Signs of the season

The lip curl. The tail tuck. The squat. The low neck. All of these movements almost become steps to a dance routine during the right time of year. And, they all mean something. As the rut approaches, the cadence of the woods begins to change and the actions any given deer takes begin to get a bit more purposeful. Have you ever watched and listened to what a buck’s gait sounds like as he marches purposefully down a scrape line on the edge of a field? It not only looks different, it sounds different. If you pay attention to your deer, and I mean every deer you see when you’re sitting, it really is amazing what you can learn.


Why is he walking like that? What made him move out of nowhere? Why is he constantly looking in one particular spot? All of a sudden he stopped? Did she just take off? These are all good questions to ask yourself when you’re in the stand. Reading a deers body language is like a constant processing of information and if you take it all in you’ll start to learn what’s normal and what’s not for the deer in your area.