Deer Hunting Vocabulary
I will always remember telling a hunting story to a non-hunting co-worker a few years back. I was rambling on about the specific details of a deer hunt over the weekend using all the fancy deer hunting lingo. He graciously let me continue.
But when I had finished, he smiled and said, “That’s great; could you repeat that in English?”
I’m not sure if it actually happened, but it feels to me like I stood there with my mouth agape for about 5 minutes before I could muster an intelligent response.
Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed.
It had literally not even occurred to me that the deer hunting slang and hunting terms I had grown so used to would be so foreign to someone who had not hunted before.
As with any community or group, there is always a certain level of technical jargon to understand. But if you’re learning to hunt, there is a ridiculous amount of hunting terminology slang words to wrestle with. Trying to understand someone who uses these deer hunting terms and phrases might seem like you’re trying to test out of a college language requirement (and not doing well, either).
I felt it was about time I write an article to define some of these deer hunting terms for you. Reference it whenever you need to. When you’re done, check out the list of small game hunting terms too.
Common Deer Hunting Terms
|Antlers||The bony growths on a buck’s head. They’re called racks or horns too, but horns do not fall off; it’s just a misnomer. Deer, elk, and moose have antlers.|
|Bag / daily limit||The legal number of animals of a certain species you can kill each day.|
|Bed||Where a deer actually lays down, they leave an oval depression in the grass or snow. Larger beds usually belong to bucks.|
|Bedding area||A place where deer will rest and sleep during the day; usually this is found in dense thickets or places where they can easily hide.|
|Bleating||Does make a whiny bleat noise to communicate with each other and signal they are in estrous.|
|Blowing||Often following a “white flag”, deer will snort loudly (i.e., “blow”) to alert other deer about a threat.|
|Broadside||The most ethical shot at a deer is when they are standing perpendicular to you so you can see one entire side of their body. A broadside shot to the vitals is a quickly-killed deer.|
|Brow tine||The first antler tine nearest to a buck’s head.|
|Browsing||Deer are adapted to eat woody shrubs and herbaceous plants quickly by roughly tearing off large chunks and continuing on their walk.|
|Buck||A male deer.|
|Busted / spooked||When deer or other game smell, see, or hear you, they will get nervous and/or leave the area quickly.|
|Button buck||A male fawn deer that only has little bumps for antlers in its first year. These are generally considered legal does because their antlers are less than 3 inches long and can be confused for does in the field.|
|Can call||An accessory piece of hunting equipment, this call is typically in the shape or a small can and sounds like a doe bleating, which they use to communicate with other deer.|
|Climber / climbing tree stand||A tree stand that wraps around a tree trunk and has a seat section and foot-hold section. You use leverage to climb the tree.|
|Doe||A female deer.|
|Estrous||When does are ready to mate, they are “in estrous”, much like a dog is “in heat”.|
|Fawn||A fawn is a deer that was born the spring of the same calendar year. Can be a newborn with spots or look like a small deer at 6 months old.|
|Feeding area||A place where deer will eat during the night, whether that includes a corn field, food plot, young forest, or shrub patch.|
|Field dressing||After shooting a deer, you need to remove the entrails quickly so the meat doesn’t spoil. Also called “gutting”.|
|Fork buck / forkhorn||A male deer with a forked tine on each side of its head, but no more than 4 points or tines.|
|Funnel||A narrow area where topography and/or habitat features cause deer to converge on a single trail. For example, where a forest is pinched by fields on each side.|
|Glassing||Using binoculars or a spotting scope to look for wild game from a good vantage point.|
|Grunt tube||A tubular deer call that sounds like a buck grunting, which they typically do during the rut.|
|Grunting||Bucks make a low-pitched grunt at each other to signal aggression, especially during the breeding season (rut).|
|Gut shot||The region of a deer that holds the stomach, intestines, liver, and various other organs. A gut shot is to be avoided as it is likely to slowly kill a deer, but it is extremely difficult to find them.|
|Hang-on tree stand||A tree stand base that connects to a tree via a ratchet strap. It also requires separate ladder sections to be attached to the tree so you can access it.|
|Harvest||A popular term in wildlife management circles, the act of killing or “taking” an animal. It’s unpopular with many hunters due to the gardening analogy, whereas hunting is the act of taking a life.|
|Horns||A permanent bony protrusion from an animal’s head. See the difference from “Antlers” above. Cows, sheep, goats, or antelope have horns.|
|Hunting weapons||Generally defines any guns (rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, or pistol) or bows (bow or crossbow) used to hunt animals. Different from tactical weapons, which are used more for target shooting.|
|Ladder tree stand||A tree stand that props up against a tree, using multiple connected ladder sections.|
|License||A hunting license should be purchased for each species or type of hunting you do. It is granting you the privilege to hunt.|
|Mast||The fruit or nuts of trees, including apples, pears, berries, grapes, acorns, walnuts, etc.|
|Mature||A deer is considered mature by most people when it reaches 3 1/2 years old.|
|Nubbin buck||See “Button buck” above.|
|Paunch||See “Gut shot” above.|
|Pinch point||See “Funnel” above.|
|Possession limit||The legal number of animals of a certain species you can physically have in your possession (in the freezer, canned, etc.). This may be more than the daily bag limit.|
|Processing||The process of skinning, quartering, and cutting all the meat off of a deer carcass. Doing this yourself can be intimidating, but you know exactly how the meat is treated this way too.|
|Quartering (butchering)||The act of cutting the “quarters” off of a deer while processing/butchering it. The quarters include all four legs.|
|Quartering (shot)||When a deer is slightly facing away from or towards you. Quartering away shots are great for bow hunters or gun hunters, but a quartering to shot should be avoided.|
|Rack||See “Antlers” above.|
|Rattling||A hunter uses two antlers to make it sound like bucks fighting, which can lure a mature buck into shooting range. Generally more useful in areas with little hunting pressure and lots of mature deer.|
|Rub||When a buck rubs its antlers against a tree to mark its territory, strengthen its neck, or remove its velvet, it scrapes the bark away. Commonly found in areas bucks like to hang out.|
|Ruminant||Like cows, deer quickly feed on plants while they can, and then lie down to chew their cud. This cud-chewing, combined with their four-chambered stomach, digests the food when they’re in the safety of their bed.|
|Rut / pre-rut / post-rut||The rut is when deer enter the peak of their breeding season (i.e., they breed the most). The pre-rut includes the weeks leading up to the rut, while the post-rut includes the weeks after it.|
|Scent drag||A piece of rope with a cloth at the end. The cloth is usually sprayed with a deer scent and drug through the woods behind a hunter to make it smell like a deer traveled the same path.|
|Scope||Magnifying optics usually mounted to the top of a rifle that allow you to make an accurate long-distance shot at an animal.|
|Scouting||The act of investigating a hunting property before you actually hunt it. A scouting trip helps you to find good hunting locations based off of wildlife sign.|
|Scrape||A scratched area on the ground (usually about 1-3 feet across) where a buck or doe leaves scent from its hooves and urinates into it to communicate to other deer in the area.|
|Seasons||The time allotted to hunt a certain species, usually open for a set number of days.|
|Shed / shed antler||As bucks enter late winter, the antlers on their head will fall off so they can start growing new ones in the spring.|
|Shooter||Usually used to describe a deer you would kill (one of legal status and to your liking).|
|Sign||The evidence left behind from animals, including tracks, trails, beds, rubs, scrapes, etc.|
|Spike buck||A male deer with only one tine on each side of its head, forming a spike.|
|Stamp||Some wild game species (e.g., waterfowl, pheasants, etc.) may require you to purchase a special additional stamp. The proceeds from these stamps will generally support additional conservation efforts for that species.|
|Still-hunting||Walking very slowly through the woods, trying to ambush an animal before they see/hear you.|
|Tag||In addition to your hunting license, you will have a field tag. This paper slip will contain basic harvest data about your animal, and serves to validate or fulfill your license.|
|Tines||The single bony extensions on an antler. Also called “points”. For example, an 8-pointer would have 8 tines (4 on each antler).|
|Velvet||In the spring and summer, velvet is living tissue that covers the development of deer antlers, making it one of the fastest-growing tissue in the world. They usually shed this tissue before hunting season.|
|Venison||Meat from a deer is called venison.|
|Vitals||The chest cavity of a deer that holds the heart and lungs. A shot with a bow or rifle in the vitals will usually quickly kill a deer and is the most ethical shot.|
|White flag||When white-tailed deer retreat, they raise their white tails to show a predator they were spotted. Not a good sign.|
Using This List of Hunting Terms
Clear as mud?
As you can see, the deer hunting vocabulary is full of odd hunting terms; some make sense and some just don’t. I hope this hunting terms glossary will help you sort through that confusion.
It’s important to note that the hunting terms listed above really just scratches the surface for deer hunting. Besides that, there are specific bird hunting terms, turkey hunting slang words, and various other hunting phrases. If it’s helpful, I’ll add a list for those someday too.
I didn’t want to overwhelm you with one post!
The next time you hear another hunter talking in hunting slang, I hope you can use this list as a helpful resource to engage in the conversation.
If nothing else, feel free to call them out on it like my co-worker did to me. It will probably open their eyes to start using more inclusive hunting language going forward.
Anything I missed? Send me a quick message with deer hunting terms you’ve heard that boggled your mind.