Gerald Almy: A deer hunter’s dictionary, A-F
If you want to become an expert deer hunter, there’s no better way to start than learning the meaning of the most important terms veteran hunters use when talking to each other about their passion. In this column and the following one we’ll delve into some of the most important words and phrases a knowledgeable and skilled deer hunter should have in his or her vocabulary.
Acorn — the mast from an oak tree. Acorns are favorite deer food in fall, especially the white and red oak, but also less well-known species such as black, scarlet, pin, sawtooth, burr, chestnut, nuttall, willow, and shin.
Aerial photograph — photos taken from satellites and planes that give a bird’s eye view of the habitat, useful for determining prime bedding areas and travel corridors deer use during your preseason scouting.
Alfalfa — a favorite deer food in agricultural areas such as the Shenandoah Valley with a high protein content.
Apples — early-season food favored by deer because of its sweetness and high energy content.
Atypical — also called non-typical, this describes a deer’s antlers when they don’t grow evenly matched on the right and left side and have abnormal points sticking in different directions. This is particularly common in older bucks.
Axis — a deer native to India and Ceylon imported over half a century ago and now successfully reproducing and thriving in Texas, Florida and Hawaii.
Bachelor group — a group of mid-to-older age bucks that hang out together during summer and early fall before breaking up and becoming antagonistic to each other when testosterone levels rise and breeding approaches in October and November.
Beamb–bthe “main beam” is the central antler that grows out of each side with tines coming out from it; the beam of a buck can also be used to describe the thickness or girth of the antler.
Bed — the place where a deer rests or sleeps, also the impression left in the grass or leaves where a deer rested, often found in thick cover for security.
Blaze orange — a bright fluorescent color worn during gun seasons so the hunter will be seen by others in the woods for safety reasons.
Bleat — high-pitched, sheep-like communication sound used by does; useful for calling in bucks.
Blinds — small enclosures, either manufactured or made from natural materials, that hide a hunter on the ground in a prime area where he can watch for deer to appear as they travel, feed or chase other deer.
Boone & Crockett — a highly respected conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt that keeps the official records of the largest big game animals taken in the wild.
Bottleneck — an area where the terrain or vegetation narrows the potential travel route of a deer into a narrow corridor where it must pass through; also called a “funnel.”
Brassicas — a prime forage for deer commonly used in food plots that includes species such as kale, rape, turnips and radishes; most appealing to deer after frosts raise their sugar content.
Breeding phase — a part of the rut or mating season when bucks hole up with does, often in isolated patches of cover, moving little and focusing on breeding; occurs around Nov. 8-20 in much of the country; December in the deep South and Texas.
Brow tine — the first point coming off the main beam on a buck, considered the G-1 point in the Boone & Crockett scoring system.
Buck fever — a high strung feeling of nervousness, apprehension and excitement that overcomes a hunter when he sees a buck within shooting range, particularly one with large antlers.
Buck-to-doe ratio — the ratio of male to female deer in a herd. Often it is 1-4 or 1-5, but in a well-balanced herd it should be closer to 1:2 or even 1:1.
Button buck — a male fawn with small antler nubbins barely visible on its forehead, 6-8 months old. Hunters try to avoid shooting these, but sometimes they’re mistaken for a doe.
Camouflage — clothing designed to make the hunter blend in with his background so deer will be less likely to see him.
Cape — the hide of a deer from the shoulders forward, saved for a taxidermy mount.
Cervidae — the deer family.
Chase phase — a period prior to peak breeding when does are just starting to come in to estrous and bucks run after them to determine which might be ready to breed.
Corn — a major food for deer during summer and early fall, high in carbohydrates but fairly low in protein.
Coyote — the major predator of deer besides man.
Deer yard — a place in northern climates where large numbers of deer congregate in winter for food and shelter.
Doe — a female deer, usually 1 year or older.
Dominant buck — either the deer with the largest rack or a fairly big rack and an aggressive personality that gets first rights to the best feed and the first females ready to breed; highly sought by hunters.
Drive — a hunting technique where anywhere from one to a dozen hunters walk through cover spread apart trying to push deer toward other hunters waiting at likely routes they will use as they flee the approaching hunters.
Drop tine — a tine or antler point that grows down off of the main beam atypically, instead of up like normal tines; highly prized by hunters.
Droppings — feces of deer; the consistency, size, dryness and location can give hunters important clues about where the deer are likely to be and what they are feeding on.
Exotics — big game species imported from other countries and established in several southern areas of the U.S., particularly Texas.
Fawn — a deer born in the spring, considered a fawn until it reaches 1 year of age.
Field dressing — removing the entrails of a deer after it’s harvested so that it will be lighter to drag out and to begin cooling down the meat.
Flehmening — a buck testing scent from doe urine in its nose and mouth to determine if she’s in full estrous and ready to breed.
Next week: More deer terminology from F-Z.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.