There’s a deer up the ridge stomping, blowing, and causing a scene. Should you pack it up and go home?
Black, beady eyes bore straight through your skull. Head bobs, foot stomps, and echoing snorts tell you exactly what she thinks, and it isn’t good. She completely disapproves of the situation, and every deer in the valley is going to hear about it. But does it matter? When a deer snorts or blows, is it game over? Is the hunt ruined?
The answer is yes, no, and maybe.
If your target buck blows, oftentimes that’s a busted hunt. Mature deer rarely blow and then stick around for another opportunity. Generally, the gig is up for the day, if not longer. This is especially true if a deer caught a face full of scent, or if it saw movement or heard noises to go with a subtle sniff of stink.
If a big buck just slightly sees or hears something it doesn’t like, but doesn’t know what it was, it might not leave. Or it might leave and come back later in the day. A “soft” spook isn’t a hunt killer. A “hard” spook usually ends the fun.
In contrast, if a non-target deer picks you off and blows, it’s not a guaranteed hunt killer. “From my experience, it depends on what the deer blew at,” said National Deer Alliance chief conservation officer Kip Adams. “Most times it’s game over, but I’ve had numerous encounters where a deer blew, but didn’t get enough scent to leave the area. They’re often on guard for several minutes, but with no movement, and no more scent, they’ve gone back to feeding. I don’t like to hear a snort/blow, but it’s not always game over.”
Sometimes, if it’s early enough in the hunt, there’s time for things to calm back down. Like Adams, Backwoods Life co-host Kevin Knighton says it’s situational. “I’ve had deer blow too close to dark to have time to recover,” he said. “I’ve also had does blow with other deer looking at them like they were stupid. I don’t pack it up and go home just because a deer blew, though.”
And then you have the deer that just blow to, well, get their way. Bone Collector’s Nick Mundt says he hunted a place in Saskatchewan where the younger deer would blow just to clear the other whitetails out of the food source so they could feed. Interestingly, because the herd was so used to hearing them blow, a big buck walked out soon after, and Mundt tagged the deer.
A similar instance happened to The Woodsman’s Jeff Danker. During one hunt, a doe got downwind and blew. A 185-inch deer was already in range and stuck around long enough for Danker to get the shot off.
“For the most part, when a doe blows, it definitely hurts things,” he said. “But I believe some does are blow-happy. And big bucks know it. I’ve watched this, and watched other deer as it happened, and it was like they know … Oh it’s just ol’ Lucy blowing again.”
Bone Collector’s Travis “T-Bone” Turner has had many of the same experiences. “I have seen an old doe blow and then other deer never pay her any attention,” he concurred. “It’s like a Karen in the grocery store produce section complaining the tomatoes are too small. Nobody cares what she's screaming about. But then, there are some deer that blow, and it certainly kills the hunt for a while.”
Overall, whether a blow or snort becomes a hunt killer depends entirely on the situation. Did the deer smell you? Did the deer just randomly blow for no apparent reason? How are other deer responding to it? Is there time to shoot before deer depart? Is there time for the area to calm down and recover? Whether or not a snort is a hunt killer hinges on these questions and more.
That said, don’t end your hunt just because a deer blows. There might still be time to get the job done, so stay after it.
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