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How do different deer species react to hunters?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: Could you tell me the reason why if you jump a whitetail, it runs and doesn’t stop. But, if you jump a mule deer, it will run a short distance, stop and look back. My question is what will a blacktail do? - Keith S.

Ask the Biologist

ANSWER: He’ll run, but keep stopping periodically to look over his shoulder. Just kidding.

In truth, there’s no telling what a blacktail will do because there’s no telling what a whitetail, or a mule deer will do. When jumped, white-tailed deer often run a fairly long distance before stopping. But sometimes they only go a short ways. It’s harder to tell in dense cover because we can’t see where they stop. However, I’ve jumped and even shot at whitetails (with a bow), and had them stop within bow range, offering a second shot.

Mule deer do have a tendency to run a shorter distance, then stop to look back. Having evolved in more open habitat, this is a more effective predator avoidance tactic. But again, it varies. This is most true of does and younger bucks. When a mature mulie buck lights out, he’s not sticking around, and in open country I’ve seen them run until I couldn’t see them any more.

My personal experience is limited, but I suspect how a blacktail reacts might depend somewhat on habitat. In open ground, where they can see prey, they might be more inclined to stop and look; where in dense cover they may be more inclined to run.

As a side note, because they look like a cross between mule deer and whitetails, a lot of folks, including most biologists, assumed black-tailed deer originated from hybridization between white-tailed deer and mule deer. However, recent genetic analysis suggests mule deer originated from hybridization between Columbia black-tailed deer and white-tailed deer, about 10,000 years ago.

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