I had an old mentor who, when trying to teach me about deer, would frequently imagine himself to be a buck. And he wouldn’t pretend to be just any antlered whitetail. He’d be a talking buck who asked me semi-rhetorical questions, like this one: “Think about it. If I’ve been laying on that hillside all day in the shade, and two hours before dark I watch you walk by me and climb up a tree, why in the heck would I go down to feed there?”

I bring this up only because my mentor was trying to get me to think like a deer, and that very skill played a role in a couple of successful hunts from this past week. I enjoyed Eric Bruce’s story on young Dakota Owens and his father, Chris, who drew permits for a special hunt. This father-son team did so many things right–especially their quick and accurate scouting mission that nailed down a good stand site– but the one that really caught my eye was their response when they bumped a couple of deer that snorted at them: they grabbed a call and immediately grunted back.

Like many hunters, I used to think a deer that snorted at me was A) freaking completely out and B) had just ruined my hunt. Now, many years later (and having learned to at least sometimes think like a deer), I realize that a snorting deer often doesn’t know what’s bothering it. If the source of danger were clear and immediate, the deer would run like heck. Instead, it stands there blowing, telling its comrades “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s over here.” When you call to a deer like that, you can frequently change its mind, so instead of being freaky-mystified, the deer relaxes…as if was thinking “Aw shucks, that was just another deer. Don’t know what I got so upset about.” The Owens pair made an excellent call, and deserved that gorgeous buck!

Thinking like a deer can come in handy regardless of locale or situation. Northeast reporter Mike Bleech reports that the rutting activity that hunters see depends greatly on where they’re hunting, especially once the firearms season opens. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many hunters will stick to their old, faithful locales (read: the ones closest to the road), even as human intrusion increases and deer sightings go south. Frequently, just a minor move over some barrier (a creek, a marsh, a little hill) will put you into deer that are behaving as if there is no gun season. And that, my friends, is something to think about.