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Author Topic: Do deer "learn"?  (Read 3916 times)

Offline Jpmiller

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Do deer "learn"?
« on: May 23, 2023, 11:25:51 AM »
So I've been thinking about some old wary animals I've witnessed and the thought occured if this was truly a learned trait or an inherent personality trait that's selected for as an animal ages? I watched a pair of whitetail fawns at my dad's house in mazama, twin bucks, together one summer with mom. One was super skittish and one was very bold. Long story short I killed the bold one the following fall and I'm pretty sure the skittish one stuck in the general area for a number of years growing into maturity. He didn't "learn" to be skittish he just was skittish.

I've seen similar stuff with the neighborhood deer at my place. There are far less predators and basically no hunting so it's not exactly the same.but as ive been able to watch individual deer the ones who start skittish seem to grow older and the ones who aren't skittish either die or move on earlier (most of the time).

It just for me wondering about if deer/elk/whatever have the ability to and do "learn". Does a bull that gets bugled in by a hunter "learn" not to respond to bugles or is it that bulls that respond to bugles get killed and ones that dont live another day? Or is it both?

Anyone have any experience observing this or know of studies about it? Or am I over thinking it all waiting for the draw?

Offline baldopepper

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2023, 11:47:37 AM »
Some years ago one of the states (don't remember which one) did a study on  pheasants. Idea was to find why pheasants were tending to run more than holding in place in cover.  Not sure how it was conducted, but final conclusion was that birds that ran lived long enough to breed while birds that held were more often jumped and shot. In other words, there was a genetic disposition to breed more skittish, running birds than hold/hide birds. Suspect there's some correlation to that in game animals. Bold/non wary animals get killed off quicker than those that pass on the wary gene.

Offline boneaddict

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2023, 11:53:53 AM »
THey absolutely learn, without question.


about skiddish versus non skiddish....  so many factors influence this behavior.  Take a non skiddish animal and something can have them flighty as heck the next day.  Say just like a horse.   I dont know if you have ever ridden a horse, but take your most trusted saddlehorse and climb on one frosty morning and you can just feel how tight they are and know you'll have trouble.   

Wind is a factor
temp is a factor
whether there is a cougar working the area is a factor
so on

Offline nwwanderer

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2023, 12:00:25 PM »
Learn or die, not just genotype.  Been watching critters for a bit, domestic, wild and in between.  There is a reason you do not see a bunch of old ones even if they are there

Offline AL WORRELLS KID

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2023, 01:24:09 PM »
Yup! Deer are Smarter, Question is will those Poachers ever Learn?
« Last Edit: May 23, 2023, 01:31:03 PM by AL WORRELLS KID »
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Offline hunter399

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2023, 02:19:32 PM »
THey absolutely learn, without question.


about skiddish versus non skiddish....  so many factors influence this behavior.  Take a non skiddish animal and something can have them flighty as heck the next day.  Say just like a horse.   I dont know if you have ever ridden a horse, but take your most trusted saddlehorse and climb on one frosty morning and you can just feel how tight they are and know you'll have trouble.   

Wind is a factor
temp is a factor
whether there is a cougar working the area is a factor
so on
I agree totally.
They do learn.
Some faster then others.
Some hot lead hitting the ground next to them,they learn real quick.
Other types of learning,such as no elk buggies ,turkey gobbles,nocturnal,thick cover,ect,ect, is more of a survival evaluation.
But sometimes they learn the fast way or the slow way.
But they be learning.
Some animals such as the predator side learn fast and are very smart.
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Offline Jeeper

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2023, 08:41:35 AM »
I jumped a buck that took off like a shot and ran with his belly almost touching the ground. He even kept his head low as he scooted off!

Offline dilleytech

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2023, 04:21:43 PM »
Every deer has a different personality just like every human. They are intelligent animals that absolutely learn.

Offline Jpmiller

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2023, 09:45:59 PM »
Does anyone know if it's been studied at all? Would be very interested to read about what they can learn and retain.

Offline huntnnw

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2023, 10:33:51 PM »
All the years chasing whitetails one thing I know is if there is a cat to be known in the area deer are on edge its noticeable. I have hunted many areas where there are very few to no cats around and those deer are way less skitish

Offline cjjcb

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2023, 06:43:24 AM »
I've seen it with hunting whitetails out of a tree stand. Deer don't typically look up. But,you get busted by a doe and a week later she comes into the area and looks right up at you. That's learned...
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Offline buckfvr

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2023, 11:14:27 AM »
They become conditioned to their environments, learning what events to associate with danger and what posses no danger.  They learn to accept certain human activities that do not (with repetition) trigger alarm.  Does and young bucks have a different threshold for tolerance of human activities than say a mature buck.

Offline Pathfinder101

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2023, 01:14:57 PM »
I have seen (and killed) older mule deer bucks in the area that I hunt that were laying with their chins on the ground to get their antlers below the brush line.  Does don't do it.  Young bucks don't do it. 
You can't tell me that they don't learn. :twocents:  Probably by seeing their older buddies do it.   :dunno:
These bucks were both killed that way.  I've seen it so much that I expect it now.
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Offline NOCK NOCK

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2023, 05:12:55 PM »
When they see my big white chevy coming they run........they have definitely learned of the killer inside.  :chuckle: :chuckle: :chuckle: :chuckle:
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Offline hunter399

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Re: Do deer "learn"?
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2023, 05:35:34 PM »
When they see my big white chevy coming they run........they have definitely learned of the killer inside.  :chuckle: :chuckle: :chuckle: :chuckle:
Mine is black.
Same here ,they always on the run.
When they see my beater.
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