Big game animal’s reactions to gun shots

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by ss7mm, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. ss7mm

    ss7mm Writers Guild

    Jun 11, 2005
    Anybody have any cases where you have witnessed a big game animal’s reaction to a gunshot or shots that weren’t directly taken at that animal? Or maybe even a shot taken directly at an animal that didn’t react to the shot if it was a miss. This is in reference to a big game animal’s reaction to the sound of a shot and quite possibly impacts in their general vicinity. And particularly at longer ranges…………..

    Again, during the past few months, I have had several additional instances where I have been able to observe big game animal’s reactions to gun shots and find some of them interesting.

    • 3 does at 350 yards and slightly below our position showed no reaction to a buck being shot by someone that was about 300-400 yards beyond them, and slightly above them. The 3 does just continued to feed and never indicated they heard the shots. I know if I heard the shots the does had to because they were closer to the shooter, but they weren’t alarmed in any way.

    • About 40 cow elk at just under 700 yards showed more alarm at the fact that I shot a spike in the bunch and the fact that he fell. They acted confused and alarmed. They actually came towards us for a ways before turning down the canyon. I’m sure they heard the shot but probably couldn’t tell where it came from. They just reacted more to the spike falling, as evidenced by their reactions and how they looked at him, than they did to the shot.

    • 2 does in a basin about 1000 yards across showed no reaction to about 8-10 shots we took at rocks during a lull in the hunting. They were about 320-350 yards to our right at about 45 degrees and on our same level. The shots were at rocks about 45 degrees to our left and about 600-800 yards away. The deer were feeding and continued to feed throughout the shooting. They were still feeding in the same spot when we left the area.

    • 2 does bedded in a small bowl at 1250 yards showed no reaction to about 12 shots on rocks at their same distance but about 100 yards to their left. They were bedded and the impact of the bullets on the rocks and the sound of the shot didn’t alarm them in any way. They were still bedded and sunning themselves when we left.

    • 11 deer feeding in a small flat/saddle on a ridge at 1100 yards and about 30 degrees to our right showed no reaction to our shots taken at crows at 800 yards and about 30 degrees to our left. The crows reacted but that was probably because the 200 grain slug only missed by about an inch or less.

    I believe the deer at 350 yards were probably an exception and normally I would have expected them to run, but they didn’t. I find that from about 700-800 yards on out the animals don’t respond like you might think they would. I also find, in my experiences, that at ranges of about 1000 yards and beyond that you can pretty much count on them not reacting to the shot in most instances, unless the impact is really close to the animal.

    What have you noticed or found as far as animals reacting to the shot and what were the circumstances and distances. Along this same line, have any of you used sighter shots at extended ranges, and if so, what were the results?
  2. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Jan 20, 2004
    2X2 mule deer. 110 yds. First time shooter.

    Deer walking broad side. When shooter moved to set up (Was prone and had to shift a bit) the itty bitty buck picked up on the movement and turned facing the shooter. Ears were forward and focus was intense. Bang - nothing. Deer remained motionless, still focused on the shooter's location. Shooter turned his head and whispered something. I laughed (quietly of course). Deer still focused. Bang - nothing. Shooter in frustation moved excessively. Deer ran when he saw the movement. Shooter was shooting through a bush, enough to deflect the bullet and most probably prevented a clear view by the deer. Shots didn't seem to bother him at all.

    Years ago. daughter and I were hunting. Her first hunt. She was sitting to my left about 5 yards. I was looking in another direction. She indicated she saw a deer. She pointed up and across the canyon. I scooted over to get better directions. This time she pointed down. The nice 4X4 had us more than made. I saw that the next movement which would be me raising my rifle, would send it on its way. I gave her the plan. I raised my rifle, the deer took off. It had to go up hill. I was supposed to shoot in front of it, between the brow points and turn it to the right, the anticipated escape route, which would present her with a broad side 120 yd shot. I shot, put the bullet right where I wanted, said deer jumped the dust and continued straight away. Didn't seem to mind the sound or the bullet strike, just didn't seem to like our ugly beings. If it would have been a yote it surely would have gone along with the plan.

    Shooting range behind my house to beyond 1000 yds. Deer cross every once inawhile. The further away they are the less gun shots bother them. Beyond 700 yds it doesn't seem to bother them at all. Closer than 440 (fence line) they are kind of nervous anyway as its an open crossing area. However, if they see ya, no matter how far away they are, they're gone.

  3. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2002
    I second the generalization of about 700 yards not really bothering them maybe even 650. Last year I could not get a range on a bedded deer. A range was guessed and I shot beside the deer into the dirt. Bullet impacted the dirt and blew clumps of dirt right toward the deers general direction. The deer did not even get up. So I made the appropriate 1MOA change I deemed necessary and shot the doe. Then she got up and tipped over. Range was somewhere right around 650 yards.

    The year before I shot a buck, again at 650yards and the heard of about 30 deer didn't seem to mind. They just watched as the buck walked a few steps and layed down.

    I think that animals in general care much more about movement than noise. There were many times when my hunting buddy and I have been close to animals especially elk while bowhunting and talking to eachother we could tell that the animals could hear us, but the second you make a move they bolt.

    I have had deer and elk run from seeing me walking though the brush at over 600 yards. But one time we were watching a large herd of over 100 elk come all the way to us from 600 yards away after hearing 15 shots fired very rapidly from 400 yards behind us. That was a big surprize.
  4. scottjohnson

    scottjohnson Member

    Jan 24, 2006
    I think the deer react differently depending on environmental conditioning. Deer in the mid west are way more skiddish than western deer. Maybe becouse the deer out west can run their asses off and not find cover so why bother. African game animals react similarly, the group darts off a few hundred yards than they stop to evaluate.
    I have whitnessed does milling around a bait pile on a Michigan farm while they were shot AT by some novice nimrods with 30-30's, You know the type! They got very nervouse and split after the 3rd shot. The lack of a sonic crack, due to the excessive range being attempted, is why these does took so long to register Danger! You learn to make the first shot count, you miss in Michigan your SOL. I could go on but classic conditioning is my story and I'm sticken to it. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif
  5. ss7mm

    ss7mm Writers Guild

    Jun 11, 2005

    I've had similar results when target shooting. One day last year we had the targets set up at 700 and had been shooting for quite a while. We were switching guns and noticed 2 does and 2 fawns on the left side of the range at about 750 yards. They fed there while I shot a 3 shot group and then we watched then slowly feed out and across behind the targets and off into the trees on the right. We just sat there and watched them and they acted like we didn't even exist even though they were standing down range when we had been shooting. It was kinda like they owned that part of the country and come to think about it, it was their back yard we were playing in. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif
  6. ss7mm

    ss7mm Writers Guild

    Jun 11, 2005

    The sound heard down range where the animal is, is quite often not what we might think. I've experimented with guns with and without muzzle brakes and the sound heard down range and there's quite a difference. We have one spot where you can get behind a small ridge at 400 yards and the sound of the un-braked gun is considerably more than the gun with the brake. We set up a video camera a few years back and you could see and hear what the different guns sounded like. The gun with the brake would make a very small puffing sound and then you'd hear the crack of the bullet going by. The gun without the brake makes a significantly louder blast and was much louder. Maybe some day I'll find a spot at around 1000 yards and set the video camera up and see what it's like at that range.
  7. SBBW

    SBBW New Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Most of the shots on our club are less than 700 yards, in fields surrounded my trees. I have seen groups of deer, 3-5, that have been shot at, and have them stop as a group at the sound of a shot and pay it no attention. I agree that the deer seem to react more to motion than sound, to a point.
  8. 41mag

    41mag Well-Known Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    I think that the "conditioning" sports some merit. Where we hunt, the deer for the most part are just like the cattle to us. We more or less just feed them and really pay them little other attention. As such most times we can ride by on a 4 wheeler and the majority of them just stand there and watch us go on by. Sometimes as close as 10 yards or so.

    The hogs on the other hand, most of them can simply hear the sound of one and they hit high gear. They know that it means something not good is fixin to happen.

    That said, as for shooting, pretty much the same scenerio. The deer for the most part when a shot is fired, just look as if they know that we're not after them so oh well back to eating. Hogs, same as the engine sound, high gear. WE did notice this past year however that range does make some difference. However, going back to the sound thing. IF we have been on a pack of hogs, bust a cap and they are headed for cover no matter what the range.

    The folks on the place adjoining where we hunt also ride 4 wheelers. However, where we just put around on them in a very controlled speed, they can be heard throttling down pretty good most of the time. The deer react to this on our place as well as there is nothing to keep them from getting between the two places. WE watch them year round and know which ones are splitting the fences and these same deer will leave the area at the sound of the engines no matter which place they are on.

    As for sight, well the hogs can and do see much better than most folks give them credit for. I don't care how much you have read they can pick you out at over 300 yds. Been there done that many times. They see us and they are gone. By the same token, I have slipped right up to within several yards of them while they were feeding as well. It took a LONG time to do it but the results were great on the grill.

    The deer, well same as the 4 wheeler, the ones which stay on our side of the fence the majority of the time, will if in the open head for cover after seeing you move, or seing your siloetted against the open background. They know what someone on foot means. Generally though they don't throw a tail and run, unless it is during hunting season when the human activity is really high in the surrounding woods. During the rest of the year, they mearly just move on to a distance they feel safe and watch very closly until you move on.

    By contrast, our family property, some 80 miles away, the deer leave the scene after seeing or hearing anything they deem related to humans. I have had them spot us at over 600 yds and bust a shuck to get outta sight, and don't even think of one standing around in any sort of opening after the report of a firearm.
  9. remingtonman_25_06

    remingtonman_25_06 Well-Known Member

    Jun 4, 2003
    I have done shooting at rocks and targets at around 600-700 yards I dont think the shots really bother animals. I think the primary reason is because they are not use to being shot at that far, so they dont really care about the shots. But when someone knows what there doing and drops an animal at 700 or so, the animals seem dumbfounded. Which brings me to the next point that you can probly go about 100 yards to the right or left, pick a aiming point, use it for a reference for a really long shot, say 1000 yards. I dont really think the shot will alarm them, which will give you your 1st sighter shot, then you can swing in on the animal and put em down, while the others stand around looking at the ground.
  10. Dave King

    Dave King Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2001
    I personally believe critters react to various stimuli in fairly predictable manners. If they (non-predators) can flee danger they will do so, predators will most often flee but may attack if they believe the danger is inside their "safety zone"

    Generally, for deer,

    IF they perceive danger they flee.

    IF they are hurt they take action to fix the pain.

    Fleeing danger takes precedence over fixing pain.

    Loud noises have little effect on deer, they don't run hither and yon during a thunder storm for example.

    They have a safety zone for unknown event that varies but is maybe hundreds of yards across.

    They can be conditioned to accept nearly anything as "non-dangerous/threatening". Take the many examples of deer on near-urban rifle and pistol ranges during shooting events...they perceive no danger as they are NEVER injured during those excursions. There are also many situations and places where "wild free-ranging" deer are hand-feed.

    If you take the time to watch and record their reactions you can test and learn their limits to different situations.

    In many cases deer will not flee for no apparent reason. Shooting one herd member may not trigger a flee/danger situation so long as that member does not telegraph to the others that there is danger. A simple bang-flop on a herd members may only be seen/interpreted as a distant non-threat and a deer laying down...they probably won't make a connection. (BUT, if you do this "bang-flop" scenario and immediately go to retrieve the deer they will quickly learn to retreat after the "distant noise and sleepy deer".)

    Deer communicate danger to one another, you can study this and we all recognize the white flag "I'm outta here!" message, there are other signs too. If the deer you shoot can't communicate the others can't/probably won't recognize danger but if you shoot a deer and it takes off you can bet the rest of the herd is going to take interest.

    It's most often the deer on the edge of the herd that spot danger first, the look-outs. Don't shoot the look-outs, shoot he deer in the center of the herd and go for a bang-flop. Do not injure a secondary deer with pass through bullets or they'll all flee.

    A herd of does and yearling is probably under the control of a senior doe. This matriarch will be a little nervous in many cases but she is key to shooting if your after the entire herd (cull). You must shoot her first, a bang-flop is best but not completely necessary but she must not leave the shooting area. Once she is on the ground the other deer will be confused and wait for a new leader, kill them before they complete their election. Shoot the remaining deer, bang flops are best but again not required so long as the deer die in the shooting field. If some make it out of the field wait for a little bit (many minutes) they will probably come back so long as they don't see the shooter(s) (stay hidden from the deer).

    Old (really old) does, and pretty much any older deer (probably insert any critter here) will react to anything out of the ordinary and leave...they already know that curiosity can kill. These type critters are harder to corner in a killing situation and you may only get one chance so take any shot you get. The Texas hogs I've hunter fit in this category too.

    Older/smarter deer may not flee with the majority of the herd, they often take a sneak in a different direction or hold. If you jump a herd of deer and they flee take a quick look 90 degrees to their flight path and if you're lucky you may find a old buck or doe sneaking away in the confusion.

    Take care that you don't train your critter with your actions. Stay out of sight and let deer move about naturally if you kill one from their herd. Don't show up at the same time or from the same direction each outing. Don't always shoot them, sometimes just watch.

    having deer come toward you after a long shot that misses is not uncommon. They hear the sonic crack at their location and very soon after that the round impacting trees or the ground THEN after a longer time they hear a distant shot. They are reacting to an unknown that is near and directly behind them (when viewed from the shooters perspective).

    You can condition them to ignore gunshots all together if they are a regular herd. Just put some rounds downrange every time you see them, just make sure you don't hit any or kick any debris onto them. (The shooting range deer scenario.)

    Train them to come to a 4-wheeler... take food out at the same time each day, never chase or harass them. Soon they'll come to the 4-wheeler whenever they hear it.

    Predators have a different set of triggers and reactions.

    I've shot groundhogs and deer (cull) and have had fox COME to the sound of the shots just like ringing a dinner bell.
  11. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

    Jun 12, 2001
    The other thing is that often a deer will let you walk by it if you do not slow down or stop. Sometimes you can slow down and come to a good shooting position but just like you can see the deers eyes and ears they can see your eyes and recognize your body tension (drawing a bow). If you stand relaxed the deer may stay relaxed.

    Yearling bucks are playful. They have a game of chase or tag. I am not sure which. Many times when I am bowhunting and walking a long they will come trotting up from behind me with their tails wagging and then run off and come back several times. I have never quite figured out exactly how to kill one that is doing that but I always enjoy the game and don't much mind playing with them and letting them get away.
  12. Tim Behle

    Tim Behle Well-Known Member

    Mar 16, 2002

    You hunt deer and I hunt coyotes, but it is amazing how much of your advice for shooting deer, is the same I'd give for shooting coyotes at long range.

    Different critters, and you shoot prey while I shoot predators, but the same general rules apply.

    The hardest part about taking a coyote at long range isn't making the shot. Many times, that's the easy part. The hard part is getting the coyote to hold still long enough to get his range, then adjust the scope and get in position to shoot.
  13. scottjohnson

    scottjohnson Member

    Jan 24, 2006

    Thanks for the info and You are right but, take if from me, Bullets do make a whizzing sound when passing close. At the ranges that you all shoot. The bullets will have slowed considerably and this sound of piercing the air is reduced. No one hears the snipers bullet just the thud followed by the reprort. Environment has a lot to do with sound transmissions and echo off woods and water. This is an advantage to a sniper and a deterant to game animals. It is good to know that a muzzle break has less report down range but that makes simple sense. Its louder at the muzzle. As far as deer reacting to noise, I believe that all game are conditioned to danger and the young deer take ques from the older deer as when to run. If you live in the bush you learn what sounds are good and bad. Deer somehow know when it is deer season and I have yet to shoot one in a group and not send the rest tailing. As for the ones milling at the range. They knew it was safe, or were not threatened by your actions but what if you sent a round at them?? /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif

    You all are more expert than I at killing "game" at 1000 plus yards. (Hell of a shot Goodgrouper)! Your my kind of people. I'm inclined to believe that a heard of deer are not experienced with being shot from these ranges and as you stated the rifle report could be muffed. Q: What if a deer dropped in his tracks, not getting the opportunity to flag the heard to a problem?
  14. Ian M

    Ian M Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2001
    Many years ago I was traveling along a logging haul-road and saw a beautiful black bear up ahead some distance. The area had some serious poaching problems so I thought I would scare the bear away from the road. Got out and dumped an '06 round into the gravel ridge on the side of the road about two or three feet from where he stood. The bear walked over to the bullet mark and sniffed at it. I drove up to him and he ran to the edge of the right of way and stood behind a big pine tree. Looked around back at me. Got out, loaded the rifle and shot about a foot over his head. Bullet passed through the tree, I could see bark and tree-innards sprayed all over that bears head and shoulders. He just stood there for about another 1/2 minute, then wandered off into the forest.

    I have also seen animals take incredible punishment from good body hits when they were "adrenalized". Elk are particularly hard to drop with chest shots if they are rev'd-up. Same deal with moose and they did not run nearly as far. Best to go for the nervous system and get them on the ground.

    Shot an antelope one time with a Sako .338 Win. in a terrible wind. Needed him for a biological sample, so just kept holding higher and more into the wind. He gave me six shots, so far out he did not move. Seventh flattened him - I was holding entire critters up and into the wind. All that shooting did not bother him at all. This was before lasers and scopes with turrets, he was about a half-mile according to the fences, no idea what the actual distance was but it was way out there. Believe that wind really busts up the sound of the bullet and rifle report. When we shoot steel if the wind is coming towards us the sound is very clear, if the wind is going away we sometimes cannot hear any hits.