Understanding deer behavior requires knowledge of all of their senses.
The whitetail’s sense of smell is very good allowing it on days with a slight breeze, to pick up the scent of a hunter 150-200 yards away, and this sense is the ultimate decider when it comes to warning them of danger. One decent whiff of a hunter and they are gone. You will sometimes see whitetails licking their nose with their tongue – this moistens air going in their noses which allows them to smell better.
Smell is also important for interpreting the chemical notice boards that advise on what deer are around and their status and territory. Smell is also used to follow other deer.
The whitetail’s ears can move independently of each other and each ear can face opposite directions so when fleeing, they can tell if they are being chased, as well as listening for whats up ahead. Their ears can also pinpoint the direction the sound came from. Strong winds reduce the ability of deer to pick up sound and also determine its direction, making the deer nervous on windy days and so they move around less. Sometimes a close loud noise can confuse the deer’s sense of hearing such that it stands around trying to determine the source of the sound, usually presenting a firearms hunter with the opportunity for a further shot
A deer’s eyes are located on the side of its head giving it 270-degree vision – the only place they can’t see is directly behind them. Their eyes are able to see in daylight as well as darkness. They can pick up the slightest movement, and will often stare intently trying to determine what it is. Sometimes they try the trick of putting their head down to feed and then quickly raising it within seconds to see if the object has moved. If it has – they are usually off. There is still debate about whether deer can see color. Some studies have said yes and some say no. Based on the cells in their eye however, if they can see color, it is very limited mainly in the yellow-blue range, with poor vision in the red/orange range.