Light loads for up­land birds

TO COR­RECTLY PRE­DICT A WHITE­TAIL’S NEXT MOVE, YOU NEED TO UN­DER­STAND ITS TAIL LAN­GUAGE

Outdoor Life - - NEWS - BY TOM CAR­PEN­TER

When a white­tail comes into view, it’s tempt­ing to en­joy the over­all show. While body pos­ture, head po­si­tion, and gen­eral gait are all im­por­tant barom­e­ters of a deer’s mood, the an­i­mal’s tail can pro­vide the most use­ful in­for­ma­tion in pre­dict­ing how that deer is feel­ing, whether or not it sus­pects you are in the area, and what it may do next. Look for these eight spe­cific tail be­hav­iors and know what each means.

1 WAG OR SWISH

Ca­sual, gen­tle, and oc­ca­sional side-to-side tail-wag­ging or swish­ing is a good sign. These re­laxed move­ments in­di­cate a deer at ease. Some deer wag more than oth­ers, and white­tails will swish more at dif­fer­ent times of year—for ex­am­ple, in sum­mer and into early bow sea­son, when pesky bugs hover. If a white­tail is tail-wag­ging and swish­ing ca­su­ally, re­lax: You have time to make de­ci­sions and pre­pare for a po­ten­tial shot.

2 THE TWITCH

Like wags or swishes, oc­ca­sional sharp twitches of the tail are no cause for alarm for you, the hunter. These twitches (much like a cow or horse does with its tail) are com­mon in all un­gu­lates when they are re­laxed and un­con­cerned.

3 CA­SUAL FLICK

A feed­ing deer will stop of­ten and lift its head up—of­ten quite abruptly—to look around for dan­ger. Watch the rhythm. A

white­tail’s tail will flick up be­fore the an­i­mal puts its head back down. If you’re con­duct­ing a stalk, or if you are on stand wait­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to get your bow or firearm up, a tail flick may in­di­cate an op­por­tu­nity for you to move or get a lit­tle more pre­pared for a shot. But be ready to freeze when that head pops back up.

4 THE HALF-MAST

The first sign that a deer is trou­bled comes when that long tail goes to half-mast— straight out be­hind—and stays rigid for a few sec­onds be­fore drop­ping and then flick­ing right back up. The half-mast tail is of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by a stiff-legged gait and per­haps some hoof stomp­ing. The sit­u­a­tion may or may not be be­yond the point of no re­turn. If you act quickly and smoothly, you may have enough wig­gle room to shoot.

5 FLARE

Sim­i­lar to the half-mast tail, a flared tail might mean trou­ble for the hunter. The deer that spreads the hairs on its tail is on alert but not quite ready to bolt. This deer knows you are around. The clock is tick­ing on any shot op­por­tu­nity.

6 WARN­ING FLICK

Jerky, fast, abrupt tail flicks in se­quence, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by a stiff­legged march, all sig­nal that a white­tail knows some­thing is wrong and it is get­ting ready to make an es­cape. With bow in hand, your shot op­por­tu­nity may be gone now. With a firearm, you might still have a chance if you can get it up smoothly and aim quickly.

7 FLAG

Flag­ging 10 to 12 inches of broad, snowwhite tail serves a dual pur­pose. First, it warns other deer that dan­ger is not just near but here; does, with their ma­tri­ar­chal du­ties, flag more than bucks. Se­cond, flag­ging tells preda­tors that fur­ther pur­suit is use­less; this can save the deer valu­able en­ergy re­sources. White­tails flag more in open ar­eas, such as clear-cuts, fields, and food plots, than they do in woods or brush.

8 TUCK

Not all deer flag. Some white­tails, es­pe­cially bucks, will tuck their tails when they’re get­ting ready to flee. Bucks just don’t have the bi­o­log­i­cal im­per­a­tive to warn each other, or mem­bers of the herd, of dan­ger. Per­haps it is sur­vival of the fittest for the males—you snooze, you lose. This is also why bucks gen­er­ally have shorter tails than does, and less white on the rump. Get your gun up.

Once a white­tail flares its tail, it’s time to make your next move.

A deer that dis­plays a tail at half-mast is siz­ing up a source of dan­ger.

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