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How well can a whitetail hear?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: Under good conditions, how far away can a deer hear a grunt call? How about a rattle bag? What about under poor conditions? — Garry

ANSWER: That’s a good question, Garry, and I mean that in the sense that I don’t know. Biologists really don’t know just how well deer hear. They certainly hear as well as humans, and probably better, because of their larger, moveable, radar-dish ears.

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If you’ve ever heard an authentic greeting or social grunt or fawn bleat, you’ve noticed it’s barely perceptible to our ears, even from a very close distance. Yet deer can hear it quite well from some distance away. Crank the volume up to something like a human grunt call and that distance increases. Switch to a sharp, loud sound like rattling and it’s farther still.

Humans can hear thunder up to 10 miles away and jet planes flying nearly that high overhead. Those are extreme examples. Effective hearing distance is reduced by several variables including:
* Volume (louder sounds can be heard from farther away)
* Environmental conditions (sound carries better on clear days)
* Habitat (sound carries farther across open ground and is absorbed more in the woods)
* Background noise (which drowns out other sounds)

Suffice to say in all cases it’s probably farther than you think. I’d venture an educated guess that, under ideal conditions, deer can probably hear the sound of rattling antlers or a rattling bag from at least a quarter mile away, possibly even farther. Similarly, a grunt could be heard from several hundred yards away. Both would be reduced by the variables mentioned above.

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