Assessing your buck’s fear levels – Know what to do when you’ve scared your game

Assessing your buck’s fear levels – Know what to do when you’ve scared your game


While we know it’s not your intention to scare a buck – it will happen from time to time.

So, the question to ask yourself isn’t about how not to spook it, but rather how you should proceed appropriately.

To answer that, you first must assess the damage you’ve done and figure out how badly you’ve spooked them.

Assessing the Damage

A buck’s fear level is important – it will tell you how he responds to danger. Take notice that not every scare is the same.

A buck will run flat out, and low to the ground if he is badly scared. He will make it his priority to get as much distance as possible between the hunter and the him.

At the opposite side of the spectrum – we have a casually scared, startled deer. This kind of scare won’t trigger the buck’s fight-or-flight mechanism. He will know that something is wrong, but that the threat isn’t in proximity. He will only adjust his movements a bit, and go on with his life.

So, to plan the next move after you’ve spooked your game is to figure out how badly you’ve spooked him to begin with.

Threat Level: Casually Spooked

From all the ways the bucks are usually spooked, these are the most common ones;

  • Bumping a buck in heavy cover while walking to, or from your stand or blind
  • A deer hitting your ground scent during or after a hunt
  • Leaving scent on objects in the field,

Let’s say a buck catches your scent in a place he’s used to smelling people. That’s no trouble. Proceed with how you’ve planned out your hunt.

But, a buck won’t forgive you if you startle him in a place where he’s not used to seeing people. Since deer don’t like surprises, if you startle him from his bed, he’ll remember it, and see it as an invasion.

Don’t hunt that stand again for a while.

Threat Level: Bad Scared

Since scaring a buck at his stand, and particularly if he outright sees you, he will get so badly scared, you might as well stop hunting it this season.

The safest thing you can do is move on. While he probably won’t totally leave the area, he will be much more cautious near where you spooked him. Move at least a couple hundred yards before hunting again. Even farther is better as long as you’re still within what you believe is the buck’s core area.


Knowing how to adjust your strategies depends on two things.

Firstly, what it was exactly that scared your buck.

Secondly, how badly it was scared.

Read each situation carefully, and respond appropriately, so you don’t waste valuable stand time this deer season.