Do Squirrels Affect Deer Hunting? [Do They Scare Deer?]

do squirrels affect deer hunting

You may be off to the woods to bag a nice whitetail for the larder, and as you are on your way, you run across squirrels scampering about and generally being their hyper selves. Now you are wondering, will they go nuts barking and spook the deer? How do squirrels affect deer hunting?

Squirrels can affect deer hunting by giving away the presence of the hunter. However, deer are generally not troubled by squirrel alarm calls that may indicate predators that attack squirrels and not deer. Sometimes, squirrels can alert hunters to the presence of deer.

The answer to how squirrels affect deer hunting is not straightforward; they can help hunters by alerting them to the presence of deer and being a nuisance by scaring deer. Unfortunately, hunters also sometimes confuse the noise of squirrels with the noise of deer. Let’s look at how squirrels affect deer hunting.

Why Deer Will Often Take No Notice Of Squirrels’ Chatter

Although the racket squirrels kick up may seem like it should scare deer, this is often not the case. However, sometimes squirrels going nuts will spook deer. 

Other times, it will not. Different hunters have had different experiences in this regard and have come up with theories to explain what makes the difference.

It seems that deer usually do not notice squirrels and their noise, mainly because squirrels always make noise. The more used the deer are to squirrels and squirrel chatter, the more relaxed they will be about squirrels going crazy and barking.

This relaxed attitude may not make much sense on the face of it. But, surely, if something has alarmed the squirrels, it would make sense for the deer to pay attention, in case whatever the squirrels saw or heard is a danger to them. 

However, remember that animals such as hawks, foxes, raccoons, and domestic cats will all threaten squirrels but not deer.

Squirrels often bark or chirp when deer arrive, so they can help hunters by alerting them to the presence of a deer.

What Factors Will Cause A Squirrel To Scare Deer

There are certain circumstances when squirrels do scare deer. So let’s have a look at them.

If you have invaded a squirrel’s territory and set your stand up near its nest, it is likely to keep up an aggressive stream of chatter that will alert deer that something is wrong. Deer are alert to signs of danger, and they pay attention to what animals such as squirrels are getting alarmed by. 

If the squirrel keeps up barking at you, it may alert deer to your presence.

On the other hand, the squirrels are barking at the deer for eating “their” acorns. Again, the deer will not be bothered. The rapid sequence of strong barks that constitutes the squirrels’ alarm call is more likely to spook deer, but many are so habituated to squirrels that they will still take no notice.

Some hunters have had squirrels startle deer by knocking objects like horse apples (Osage orange) out of trees near the deer. Having something suddenly come thumping to the ground near them is understandably startling to deer.

How Squirrels React To Hunters And What To Do About Them

Squirrels differ in their behavior toward hunters. Often they take off when they see hunters, but at other times they will go nuts. The key difference is likely to be how close you are to their nest, although some hunters report that red squirrels are more likely to act crazy than gray squirrels or fox squirrels.

Squirrels sometimes invade stands and startle themselves and hunters. You will hear them climbing up, and suddenly they are at your window. This behavior tends to cause a big fright, spooking any deer in the vicinity.

If you are bow hunting, you could try shooting the squirrel with a small game tip you have brought along for the purpose. Otherwise, throw a branch at the squirrel to scare it off. 

Do not shoot your deer hunting rifle upward at the squirrel. You do not know where the slug will end up, and you could hit another hunter. 

What’s more, the sound of the shot will alert deer to your presence even more than the squirrel. Instead, hope that the deer will ignore the little nuisance.

How Squirrels Can Alert Hunters To The Presence Of Deer

Because both squirrels and deer eat acorns and hickory nuts, squirrels can help you by tipping you off to where the best mash is located. When you find a spot with many squirrels, you will likely have found a spot with plenty of deer, too.

Once you have settled into your stand or blind to wait for deer to come along, animals such as squirrels will forget about you and go about their business as long as you make no noise. However, watching them and listening to them will alert you to the arrival of large animals such as deer.

Squirrels are sometimes spooked by deer, although no one knows the exact reason. It may be because squirrels mistake them for predators because they are competition for nuts or because of their sheer size.

When deer approach, squirrels often hightail it for the nearest hollow tree and start barking or chirping. So pay attention to what the squirrels are doing, and you could bag a nice kill. You may also see animals such as turkeys, coyotes, or bobcats. 

If squirrels give a quick, soft bark followed by a longer bark, this is a good indicator that there are deer in the vicinity.

How Hunters Can Confuse Squirrel Sounds For Deer Sounds

Inexperienced hunters sometimes confuse the sounds of squirrels in the leaves on the ground for deer, mainly if it is a solitary squirrel.

Groups of squirrels dash about in bursts, making a lot of noise as they chase each other.

Single squirrels scampering around in leaves can sound like deer approaching to the untrained ear, but with practice, you will learn to distinguish them as the frequency of movement is different. 

Squirrels create a sporadic, high-frequency noise, whereas deer create rhythmic stepping or trotting noises if they are making noise (many a hunter has had deer materialize out of nowhere without a sound).

Final Word

Squirrels affect deer hunting, but they do not scare deer most of the time. Deer have learned to pay no attention to squirrels going crazy over threats that do not affect deer. On the other hand, squirrels sometimes alert deer to the presence of a hunter and can even startle hunters.

You can even use the squirrels as a way to find deer. They gather where there is good mash, and squirrels often bolt for trees and chatter when deer approach.

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