Since the release of my book, I have found myself more than once debating how relevant it is to big woods, farm country, and other rural whitetail behaviors. The very core of the theories presented in The Urban Deer Complex is the science of conditioned animal behavior. Not just for urban deer, but for rural whitetails too. Conditioned animal behavior applies to deer living in the New England logging country.
In my youth, I often ventured into the Northwoods with my uncle and father. Hunting rural whitetail deer deep in active logging county is not for the faint of heart. The logging operations—giants skidders taking on mountains and rugged lumbermen wielding epic chainsaws—fascinated me. So one day I wandered to an active clear cutting. In the midst of the chaos, a curious thing happened. I watched a few deer casually approach the very obvious human presence.
It would take years and countless stories of loggers seeing deer at active logging sites for me to put two and two together. These mountain deer had become used to the presence of man and adapted accordingly. They understood the difference between non-threatening and threatening human behavior.
Just like the landscapers, the children playing in a backyard, the casual hiking outdoor enthusiast, these loggers were not displaying predatory behaviors. The deer were not conditioned to fear. Over the course of so many years, I began to pay more attention to hunters who said, “We saw the deer when we least expected it.” In those moments, we are behaving the least like hunters.
This is what is called urban camouflage and it’s foundational to understanding urban deer behavior. By staying away from predatory behaviors, we become invisible to these deer. The deer come to develop complex ideas of human behavior in suburban America. There is almost no limit to what kinds of behaviors a deer can become conditioned to.
Urban America has exposed the adaptable behaviors of whitetail to extremes that rural whitetail behaviors are not. I find myself applying this suburban deer phenomena back to the hunting camps of my youth. Whitetails become clever products of their environment. The Urban Deer Complex invites us to open our minds to this process.
We understand the biology of whitetails. The mass market has given us plenty of information on it. Yet it is the psychology that puts us on the cutting edge of successful hunting. The mental process of the conditioned whitetail makes the deer we hunt today.
Last modified: August 27, 2018