The Science of Fear: Urban Deer Behavior

Written by Science of Fear, Suburban Deer Behavior

suburban deer behavior

We take a look at the science of fear, one of the most basic and important concepts of suburban deer behavior.

As many of you may recall from The Urban Deer Complex, conditioning behavior is the primary driving force behind my hunting methodology. Conditioning is a process in which repeated actions cause a learned reaction over time. In this article, we want to heavily observe how fear develops specific suburban deer behaviors over the course of a whitetail’s life.

The science of fear covers a truly fascinating aspect of deer psychology. Deer have different variations of learned behaviors from the same stimuli across different locations. The locations could be states away or within a mile. We will tackle four major theories of fear and how fear influences suburban whitetail behavior.

Flight Distance

Flight distance is the distance deer determine to be harmful while in the presence of a human. This depends on the habitat conditioning of the deer and, therefore, varies throughout the country. In some areas, the flight distance is twenty yards while in others it could be as far as the eye can see. It all depends on the conditioning.

Theory of Motion

The theory of motion concerns the whitetail’s response to fluid motion. This is an extremely adaptable behavior. The theory of motion has resulted in the invention of many suburban “still” hunting techniques.

Scent is the Strongest Memory

For deer, scent is the “strongest memory.” Depending on the deer, specific scents are associated with known threats and cause fear. Deer might react differently to the same scent depending on the area of the country. This is, once again, a direct result of long-term conditioning. Knowing how deer react to scent can allow hunters to pull back the veil on the classic fear of scent contamination and its actual relevance to hunting.

The Subconscious Fear

In the inner depths of a whitetail’s psyche, fear is subconsciously effecting how a whitetail makes decisions. I originally spoke of this popular topic as the Path of Least Resistance in The Urban Deer Complex.

Understanding these four theories on fear conditioning allows us to unlock another mystery of suburban deer behavior. That mystery is the mystery of fear. By applying this knowledge, we can control yet one more variable in a sport at the mercy of nature and fortune. We are that much closer to increasing our success as evolving predators.

To learn more, keep reading: Flight Distances—The Science of Fear

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Last modified: August 28, 2018

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