Today’s mature whitetails recognize preludes to hunting seasons & differences between hunting & non-hunting humans.
Like last year, a big buck with especially large antlers and drop-tines spent spring, summer and early fall feeding, watering and bedding within or adjacent to my longtime Wisconsin hunting partner’s forest home. Often viewed with yearning and discussed by local deer hunters, weeks and even months before the firearm hunting season began the region surrounding the buck’s range rang with hammer blows and motorized equipment used to prepare stand sites, post lands, clear trails, create shooting lanes and offer generous quantities of baits such as apples, corn and growing clover or alfalfa. Contrarily, my partner deliberately avoided disturbing deer inhabiting his own wooded property throughout the year, but again, that canny buck was nowhere to be seen during during the 2016 firearm deer hunting season.
Such a tale is common wherever whitetails are hunted, one reason being, experienced whitetails that have survived three or more hunting seasons recognize preludes to deer hunting such as scouting, preparations of stand sites, discharges of firearms at targets and game such as grouse, waterfowl and black bears during earlier hunting seasons and an increasing frequency sounds made by off-road vehicles within their home ranges. They then realize it will soon be time to begin taking the evasive actions that enabled them to survive previous hunting seasons.
Mature whitetails also quickly recognize differences between hunting and non-hunting humans. When harmless humans they have often observed throughout the year suddenly don blaze-orange clothing and begin sneaking into their ranges, often halting to peer about and listen, or when humans form long lines that attempt to drive them toward waiting lines of downwind humans, they instantly begin taking previously effective precautions. Though conservative at first, as soon as it becomes obvious it will thereafter be difficult to avoid short-range encounters with hunting humans, they readily abandon their home or breeding ranges for extended periods, not uncommonly taking refuge several miles away on posted property or in habitat seldom invaded by hunters such as wooded swamps. Older wolf-country bucks I have studied were knowledgeable of safe sites in areas as large as a township (36 square-miles). Many experienced deer simply become nocturnal when threatened by hunters, stubbornly refusing to leave their secluded beds within their home or breeding ranges during daylight hours.
Now you know some major reasons why such deer are so difficult to hunt.