Understanding urban camouflage is a fundamental learning block to being a successful hunter.
Urban camouflage, what does that mean to a Whitetail Deer? Think outside the box, this is not pertaining to the multimillion dollar business of producing camouflage patterns that conceal you in any environment. This is the idea of psychological camouflage. How can we emulate what a deer considers to be non-threatening human behavior?
We keep revisiting one common theme, the idea of deer being a conditioned animal. As a result of this conditioning, deer mentally log what is safe and what is not. In urban/suburban settings where deer are under constant pressure from humans, they must distinguish the difference from threating and non-threating behavior.
Ultimately, what makes a deer understand a safe situation is repeatedly experiencing something with no threat to themselves or other Whitetails. This can be a wide range of things, in fact such a large list that the idea of this chapter is to learn how to identify “urban camouflage” rather than tell you all specific types.
What is Urban Camouflage?
Urban camouflage is a technique that allows you to blend with non-threatening human behavior to gain an advantage in deer hunting. For example, using walking trails that are commonly traveled by hikers, bikers and other non-hunting personnel. In such situations, issues of wind direction are avoided by using a trail to enter a tree stand, as the deer are used to smelling people on these trails regularly.
How to identify Urban Camouflage
Identifying urban camouflage takes one important step. Think less like a hunter and more like an everyday citizen. We are ultimately separating everyday people from hunters, as if we are two separate species. By making the difference between the predator hunter and the non-threatening human more definable, we understand how to identify urban camouflage.
What situations do non-hunters tell you they see deer? Are they walking a trail, racking leaves, driving a car? Were they talking, what were they wearing, what time of day was it? Deer analyze all of that when they decide if that person is threatening or non-threatening.
How many hunters have told you, “We saw the deer when we least expected it.”? Analyze that statement and understand what was different from the hunt. Most hunters talk when they are walking from the woods. About the weather, the hunt, or things going on at home, they are no longer in the hunting mode. They are most likely walking less like a hunter, no longer creeping through the woods. Hikers, speed walkers, kids, bikers, all have very different movements than the distinct predator, the hunter.
Even the time of day can make these hunters less threating, like walking from the woods after a morning hunt. Deer are used to human movement in daylight hours. They understand that human movement in the dark and the use of flashlights most likely means the presence of a predator and not a non-threatening human.
Consider our “least expecting” hunters. Deer are very adaptable creatures and hunters, more often than not, tend to be very stubborn traditionalists. Many hunters will believe the further in the woods the better chance at deer. As a result, deer have been conditioned to know the closer they are to roads and buildings, the safer they remain.
The “least expecting” hunters saw those deer because they were not acting like hunters. They were exhibiting many behaviors of non-threating, non-hunters. The style of their walk, their talking, the time of day, and their location, in the eyes of a Whitetail, made them no threat.
The ability to identify and analyze these situations is paramount in adapting these urban camouflages’ to harvest a Whitetail. Begin to think when you see these common human behaviors, how can I make that help me as a hunter?
Threatening and Alerting Behavior
When I say “non-threatening behavior”, I do not mean that the deer ignores everyday humans. Deer are alert animals, the difference between threatened behaviors and alerting behaviors is major. A Whitetail will stay still and allow common humans to pass. When these non-threatening humans pass, they are on high alert. They are ready to react at any sign of the behavior changing in the human. Things as small as the humans stopping make major differences. You can very quickly go from non-threatening to threatening.
That difference creates adaptable hunting behaviors, like walking while shooting a deer off a walking trail. If you stop the fluid motion deer now begin to change from alert to panic. This method is to keep them in this alert state either long enough for you to harvest them or for you to pass without arousing suspicion that you will be in a stand close by.
Adapting urban camouflage.
The use of urban camouflage can be as simple as using common walking trails for tree stand entry points and as crazy as talking to yourself while walking through the woods. Key factor to understand is that Whitetails, like humans, are constant evolving animal, more so than most species. This is why their success in urban and suburban settings has been so great.
As a hunter, you need to constantly evolve and adapt. Although a method of urban camouflage may work consistently, it can lose its’ effectiveness over time as your deer population becomes wise to your tricks. The overuse of techniques change non-threatening behaviors to the behavior of human predators.
We can adapt a few things from non-hunters while in the woods. Deer are not afraid of talking humans, they understand what movement patterns they use, and they understand that they use actual hiking trails. Common people do not step off trails in the woods, hunters do. We can curb these behaviors by walking at consistent paces going to our hunting spots and using common walking trails as means of entry. Often you can plan tree-stand locations with walking trails as an advantage over what would commonly be considered poor wind direction entries.
Other clever methods can be as crazy as talking to yourself or even to a friend on the phone on the way in. Deer will see you as a passing every day human with no threat to themselves. This trick can often throw deer off, once you are off of the man-made walking trails. It will cause both confusion and curiosity, as they are experiencing things outside a threatening behavior. I have heard of many hunters that had deer walk in on them after they have already shot a deer and were talking on their phones.
The Trick of Curiosity
The trick of curiosity is once you have introduced deer to a behavior they are not familiar with, stall long enough to harvest them or make them think you are not a predator. A common method of this is making some kind of noise while walking that is not distinct to humans. Deer recognize human walking patterns, by changing that distinct sound you can trick deer. I know hunters that will do such things as intentionally drag their feet, let a cord from a tree stand drag behind them, or even drag a walking stick. Deer will be very alert to these behaviors, but they will be slow to pass judgment. This can help get you to tree stands or past bedding areas, causing mass alert rather than mass panic.
Whatever your own common or strange methods might be, remember to take the time to think of the differences we discussed. Take the extra step in the thought process and say “what can I do to blend into the urban/suburban landscape.” This step can give you a serious advantage over many hunters and more importantly, an advantage over the elusive Whitetail. As a hunter you must evolve because Whitetails are always evolving to success.
To find out more check out the book dedicated to part-time hunters and urban/suburban hunting tactics- The Urban Deer Complex