How Do They Know When They're In Danger?

One of the many things I'll never understand about wildlife is, how do they know when they're in danger and when they're not? In the last few months I've seen three big gobblers standing ten yards behind the firing line, watching in fascination as a bunch of pistol shooters blazed away. I've seen the entire flock leisurely feed their way across a rifle range while a match was in progress, the bullets snapping above their heads and rifles banging.

Years ago I shot at a range with 20 firing points that was situated at one side of a cattail-filled valley, the target butts 100 yards away on the other side. There was a herd of deer that lived in the cattails and did not leave in October when all the once-a-year rifle shooters were firing over their heads, trying to sight in. It was the most infernal racket, but the deer didn't seem to mind at all.

In Africa, when I was hunting sable, we had hell's own time getting close enough to one to shoot--even though sable are pretty dim-witted as animals go--but after I'd taken a bull, the local sable herd was as tame as so many cattle.

Watch a herd of zebra or wildebeest or Cape buffalo when there is a pride of lions nearby. If one lion makes a wrong move the herd will stampede. But on other occasions it will let a lion literally walk through, paying hardly any attention at all.

And then we have our friend the whitetail buck, whom we can see browsing in the middle of a pasture in broad daylight the day before hunting season begins, and who vanishes on opening day. How do they do it? Your guess is as good as mine.