Deer Terminology and Words

News & Tips: Deer Terminology

If you want to become an expert deer hunter, there's no better way to start than learning the meaning of the most important terms veteran hunters use when talking to each other about their passion. Here's a dictionary of some of important words and phrases a knowledgeable and skilled deer hunter should have in his or her vocabulary.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | Y



The mast from an oak tree. Acorns are favorite deer foods in fall, especially the white and red oak, but also less well-known species such as black, scarlet, pin, sawtooth, burr, chestnut, nuttall and shin.

Aerial Photograph

Photos taken from satellites and planes that give a bird's eye view of the habitat, useful for determining prime bedding areas and travel corridors deer use in preseason scouting.


A favorite deer food in agricultural areas with a high protein content.


Early-season food favored by deer because of its sweetness and high energy content.


Also called non-typical, this describes a deer's antlers when they don't grow evenly matched on the right and left side and have abnormal points sticking in different directions.


A deer native to India and Ceylon imported over half a century ago and now successfully reproducing and thriving in Texas, Florida and Hawaii.


Bachelor Group

A group of mid-to-older age bucks that hang out together during summer and early fall before breaking up and becoming antagonistic to each other when testosterone levels rise and breeding approaches in October and November.


The "main beam" is the central antler that grows out with tines coming up out from it; the beam of a buck can also be used to describe the thickness or girth of the antler.


The place where a deer rests or sleeps, also the depression left in the grass or leaves where a deer rested, often found in thick cover for security.

Blaze Orange

A bright fluorescent color worn during gun seasons so the hunter will be seen by others in the woods for safety reasons.


High-pitched, sheep-like communication sound used by does; useful for calling in bucks.


Small enclosures, either manufactured or made from natural materials that hide a hunter on the ground in a prime area where he can watch for deer to appear as they travel, feed or chase other deer.

Boone & Crockett

A highly-respected conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt that keeps the official records of the largest big game animals taken in the wild.


An area where the terrain or vegetation narrows the potential travel route of a deer into a narrow corridor where it must pass through; also called a "funnel."


A prime forage for deer commonly used in food plots that includes species such as kale, ***, turnips and radishes; most appealing to deer after frosts raise their sugar content.

Breeding Phase

A part of the rut or mating season when bucks hole up with does, often in isolated patches of cover, moving little and focusing on breeding; occurs around November 8-20 in much of the country; December in the deep South and Texas.

Brow Tine

The first point coming off the main beam on a buck, considered the G-1 point in the Boone & Crockett scoring system.

Buck Fever

A high strung feeling of nervousness, apprehension and excitement that overcomes a hunter when he sees a buck within shooting range, particularly one with large antlers.

Buck-to-Doe Ratio

The ratio of male to female deer in a herd. Often it is 1-4 or 1-5, but in a well-balanced herd it should be closer to 1:2 or even 1:1.

Button Buck

A male fawn with small antler nubbins barely visible on its forehead, 6-8 months old.



Clothing designed to make the hunter blend in with his background so deer will be less likely to see him.


The hide of a deer from the shoulders forward, saved for a taxidermy mount.


The deer family.

Chase Phase

A period prior to peak breeding when does are just starting to come in to estrous and bucks run after them to determine which might be ready to breed.


A major food of deer, especially in the Midwest, high in carbohydrates but fairly low in protein.


The major predator of deer besides man.


Deer Yard

A place in northern climates where large numbers of deer congregate in winter for food and shelter.


A female deer, usually one year or older.

Dominant Buck

Either the deer with the largest rack or a big rack and an aggressive personality that gets first rights to the best feed and the first females ready to breed; highly sought by hunters.


A hunting technique where anywhere from one to a dozen hunters walk through cover spread apart trying to push deer towards other hunters waiting at likely routes they will use as they flee the approaching hunters.

Drop Tine

A tine or antler point that grows down off of the main beam atypically, instead of up like normal tines; highly prized by hunters.


Feces of deer; the consistency, size, dryness and location can give hunters important clues about where the deer are likely to be and what they are feeding on.



Big game species imported from other countries and established in several southern areas of the U.S., particularly Texas.



A deer born in the spring, considered a fawn until it reaches one-year of age.

Field Dressing

Removing the entrails of a deer after it's harvested so that it will be lighter to drag out and to begin cooling down the meat.


A buck testing scent from doe urine in its nose and mouth to determine if she's in full estrous and ready to breed.


Food deer eat.


A buck with two points on each side, also called a four-pointer; usually a yearling.

Forehead Gland

Glands on forehead a buck uses to deposit scent on rubbing trees and licking branches to show his presence and status in the herd.


Low-growing weeds and plants bucks feed on in fields.


Places where the topography or thick vegetation forces a deer to travel through a narrow area; excellent stand locations.


Ground Shrinkage

The conclusion reached when walking up to a buck and finding that it wasn't as large, old or heavy-antlered as you thought it was when you pulled the trigger.


To field dress a deer or remove the entrails.


A communication sound bucks make with their diaphragm and vocal chords; there are many different kinds of grunts that mean different things to other deer.



To age meat to make it more tender; temperatures must stay cool, preferably 40 degrees or lower, for this to be practical.

Hang-on Stands

Stands that you fasten to a tree and leave in place as opposed to climbing stands that you climb up the tree with at the time of the hunt and down afterwards; also called lock-on stands.


The skin of a deer.

Hunter Orange

See fluorescent orange.


A buck with thick antlers or good "mass" measurements; typically the sign of an older deer, four years and up.


Interdigital Gland

 A gland located between the two center toes of a deer's feet that leaves scent as a deer walks.


Land Management

Managing the habitat so the needs of whitetails and other wildlife are considered with plenty of food, cover and water available.

Lip Curl

A buck curling his lips and sucking in scents to determine if a doe is in estrous or how close she is to being ready to breed.


The period when peak breeding takes place; little buck movement occurs compared to the periods just before and after when bucks are seeking out and chasing does.


Management Buck

A buck on a ranch managed for trophies that does not have the ultimate antler development for his age and can be harvested by hunters at a lower fee.


The thickness or diameter of a buck's antlers; it's measured in four locations when scoring a rack; the older the buck, the heavier the mass.

Moon Phase

The stage of the moon from new to full influences deer behavior, but hunters and scientists disagree on exactly how.



Moving at night; bucks normally move very early and late in daylight, but older bucks can become almost totally nocturnal when faced with heavy hunting pressure.


See "atypical"



See "acorns"


Pineal Gland

A gland in the brain that determines when bucks grow their antlers and when they shed or drop them, based on the photoperiod or amount of light in the day.

Post Rut

Period of one to two weeks after peak mating when bucks are still searching for receptive does, but most females have already bred and are not interested.


One of the most important components of forage; deer need 16 percent protein overall in their diet to thrive and reach maximum potential.


Q.D.M. (Quality Deer Management)

A principle of managing deer that calls for harvesting more does to achieve a more balanced, natural *** ratio, as close to 1:1 as possible, while allowing bucks to grow several years before harvesting them so they can reach more of their full potential in antlers and body size.



To bang, rub and grind a pair of deer antlers together to imitate the sounds of two battling bucks and draw in other bucks.


A place on a small tree or sapling where a buck has rubbed its antlers and removed the bark; rubs can have many different meanings to other deer.
Rut-the breeding period for deer. It includes four phases-1) the early pre-rut, 2) the seek and chase phase, 3) peak breeding and 4) the post-rut; it can last 4-6 weeks.



A place on a hunting property, preferably with heavy cover and near the center of the land, that is left off-limits and not hunted so bucks will feel secure there when hunting pressure mounts around them.


Oval places where a buck has pawed away leaves, grass, urinated and left his scent on an overhanging branch to attract does and let other bucks know of his presence.


Searching the woods and fields for sign deer leave to try to unravel their movement patterns and plan a good location to place a stand.

Secondary Rut

A period about 28 days after the main rut when young does that have not been bred come into heat and bucks become especially active seeking them out.


A buck that meets the age, body and antler size requirements of a given property or one's personal standards; a buck that is big or old enough that the hunter wants to harvest it.


Beds, hoof prints, droppings, rubs, nibbled browse, scrapes and other indicators that a deer was present.


An antlerless deer.


An alarm sound made by deer through the nose when they're suspicious of danger and about to flee.


An aggressive challenge call made by bucks during the rut, often the lead-up to a fight; typically it starts with a grunt followed by several short snorts, and then a long, loud wheezing exhale through the nostrils.


A major food for deer in farm country; leaves are fed on all summer, beans in fall; when roasted, soybeans make a high-protein (38 percent) supplemental feed.


A deer with one antler point on each side, a 2-pointer, usually a yearling.


Location where a hunter sits or stands and waits for deer to walk into bow or gun range.

Still hunting

A tactic that involves slowly walking through deer habitat and pausing often, trying to spot the quarry and make a shot or sneak closer into range for the shot.


Tarsal Glands

A 3-4 inch patch on the inside legs of deer's legs that releases secretions, particularly as the rut approaches; often urinated on by bucks to increase the scent they give off.


Hormone in male deer that rises as the rut approaches, causing antlers to harden and boosting energy and aggressiveness for breeding.


A deer with small diameter antlers or poor mass measurements; usually a younger buck; quality deer management calls for passing up these deer.


Points that branch off the main antler beam on a buck.


A hunting method that involves following the hoof prints of deer, usually through snow or across wet or muddy ground.

Travel Corridor

A general route deer follow moving from feeding to bedding areas and back.

Tree Stand

Elevated platforms from which a hunter watches for deer.



A covering of collagen fibers on a deer's antlers during their growing stage that looks like velvet; it' stripped off in late summer as antlers harden in response to rising testosterone levels.


The meat from a deer; high in protein, low in fat and delicious.



A deer, usually a buck, that is about 1-1/2 years old (over one year but less than two years old); before QDM began gaining acceptance, most bucks harvested were yearlings that had obtained only one-tenth of their potential antler growth when killed.