Sound affects our hunts more than you think

Hunting white-tailed deer is a complicated process that combines mental and physical needs and a certain strategy. In fact, any kind of hunt can cause us to rethink our best laid plans. We have spent a lot of time studying our favorite game animals and finding equipment and techniques to give us an edge. When we set out to put it all together, sometimes the smallest problem gets in the way.

With deer hunting, there have been attempts to lessen the effects of these little things. There is no doubting the effect our human scent has on whitetails and as a result, scent control has become a serious sector of the hunting industry. But generally speaking, the first thing that alerts deer or any other wildlife to our presence is the sound we make, whether we’re trying to sneak into the woods or trying to pull back the bow.

Hunters of all kinds throughout history have spent eons trying to stay quiet in the woods to fool wild animals, but the noise we make shouldn’t be the only thing we need to be aware of. Listening to the other creatures in the world’s forests and waters can greatly contribute to our understanding of what wild animals do and think. And it can help us be more successful.

unintentional noise

White-tailed deer is alert in the woods

Photography Medley/Getty

Sometimes it’s just hard to be completely quiet while hunting. We know we shouldn’t talk and put our cell phones on silent, but it’s the involuntary noises we make that can spell disaster. Climbing a tree, walking on water, coughing, sneezing, breaking branches, snagging clothes, and many other things make it difficult, especially when the wild game we’re trying to fool is on high alert. The worst part is that it’s completely unnatural for us to be there in the first place.

Our best advice is to slow down. We’re not just talking on the way to the dais or in the dark either. Be more precise in all your movements on the stand. Most actions in the booth do not need to be rushed, and this helps a lot with noise control. Look for clothing that decreases the amount of sound as it rubs against itself. It doesn’t hurt to try on a jacket or pants and then simulate the typical movements you would do while hunting. This will help eliminate noisy competitor clothing for your next purchase. It also helps ensure that you’ll mount a weapon as quietly as possible.

predicted noise

Sound affects hunting

Educational Images via Getty Images

We put so much emphasis on remaining silent in the woods that it can seem counterintuitive to intentionally make noise. However, an entire hunting call industry was born many years ago and thrives to this day. It shows that sometimes it is better not to remain completely silent. We’re not sure who the enterprising hunter was who first used his mouth to make a call, but he definitely graduated soon after and started using tools like bones, blades of grass, or wood in an effort to create the sounds of wild animals.

While we’ve come a long way since the days when we discovered that certain materials, when rubbed together, can sound exactly like a goose turkey, calling is still something of an art form. You should not take the creation of these sounds lightly. Think of calling as the process of speaking for humans. If you say the wrong thing to an animal, it will avoid you, just like a person would. We highly recommend investing the time not only to purchase a call, but also to learn how to use it correctly and in what situations. Anyone can make two antlers collide in a rattle sequence, but if you do it at the wrong time, you’ll chase more deer than you attract. The same goes for many different calls and all species of game animals.

In general, there is no single approach for many game birds. One subspecies of turkey or duck may respond better to a specific type of call at a certain time of year than another subspecies. It takes some homework and some practice to master the art of game calls, but once you do, they’re vital skills and some of the most intentional sounds you’ll ever make. Also remember the rules. In most states, the use of electronic calls for species such as deer, turkey, and waterfowl is inherently illegal. These types of calls are often only legal when pursuing predators such as bobcats, coyotes, or foxes.

natural noise

Sound affects hunting

Robert Winkler via Getty Images

The effects of our own unnatural sounds on the game we pursue are obvious. Most of us know that when a turkey decides to kick, a squirrel starts barking, or a white-tailed deer blows at you, it means you’re stuck. However, sometimes we forget to think about what other natural sounds are communicating to our prey. For example, both songbirds and nonsongbirds make sounds that can be very reassuring to deer and other game when feeding. However, these same birds often have their own alarm calls as well. Other animals are attuned to what the sounds of the desert mean, and it could work against you.

That way, it’s worth learning the different animal distress calls and how to recognize them. You may be surprised to learn that a resident bird or other small animal has been actively alerting all other wildlife in the forest to your presence without you even realizing it. At that point, it could be as simple as a change of location to fix it. But too many hunters sit through many unsuccessful hunting sessions because they didn’t recognize that the creatures they were hunting knew they were there all the time.

Be stealthy outdoors

Sound affects hunting

moss covered oak

Movement begets sound, and there’s not much we can do about it, but in the case of humans versus wild animals, where there’s a will, there’s a way. In truth, patience can be our best tool in the woods, as it can be the best way to overcome unwanted sounds and go unnoticed. We know you’re excited to get to your hunting spot. Stopping frequently and being aware of your surroundings is a preventative way to eliminate unnecessary noise.

Also think about the weather and how it affects sound before you go out. Dry conditions make the approach more difficult than when the forest is wet or damp. When it’s dry, try to avoid leafy areas or areas with lots of twigs and branches that can break or crack. If you can clear pathways to your stall or blind, that lessens the rustling sounds of grass or other vegetation brushing against your clothing.

You never know where the targeted game animal will be. Have you ever jumped over a deer on your way to the stand? We rest our case. You want to be a true ghost of the forest in all aspects of hunting. You need to get in and out without anyone knowing you were there. It may seem extreme to consider sound through your arrival and departure from the forest every time, but this is a tactic used by some of the best hunters out there. You know, the guys who consistently make a lot of money year after year.

Combine that approach with calmer clothing and a more deliberate calling approach, and you’ll be surprised at how many more game sightings it has this season. Sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest impact.

See my book “The Hunter’s Way” by HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my website, or on Facebook and YouTube.


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