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Woods and waters with Joe Martino

Deer Vocabulary: What sounds do deer make – and what do they mean?

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Payoff - Knowing how to understand and mimic deer vocalizations can lead to more venison in the freezer.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Understanding a deer’s vocabulary can help you understand how to hunt them. This time of year, early in the season, there are quite a few vocalizations that deer make in order to communicate with each other. Understand them, and know how to use them, and you’ll be a more successful hunter.

Doe Bleats:

Does will bleat to maintain contact with their fawns and to let them know where they are, or that it’s time to nurse.

Fawn Mew:

The softest of all calls, fawns will often mew while they are nursing. It is similar to when a baby coos and such.

Fawn Bleats:

When a fawn wants attention, or is lost from its mother, it will bleat as a way of trying to reconnect with her.

Distress Bawl:

All deer make distress bawls; bucks, does, etc. They do this when they are in distress or danger. A fawn distress bawl can be a good call to use in the early archery season if you want to call in a doe.


Grunts can be made by both bucks and does, but their sound, tone and meanings can be quite different. A doe will softly grunt in order to stay in touch with her fawns and letting them know it’s time to nurse.

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When a buck grunts, it can be a tending grunt, in order to check the breeding status of a doe, or a more aggressive grunt meant to get a response or reaction from another deer, be it a buck or a doe.

The tending grunt is a much softer, less aggressive sounding grunt than a contact grunt.

Grunts are great calls for your fall hunting, just be sure to understand how to make each type of grunt and what they mean.

Estrus Bleat:

This is the sound a doe makes when she is ready to breed. Does only use this call a couple weeks out of the year, and it is rare to hear. During the pre-rut, it can call in bucks quite well.


Deer snort as a response to anything that annoys them or makes them uncomfortable with their surroundings. I’m sure you’ve heard this sound – way more often than you care to, and likely hope you never hear it again.

It used frequently by deer, and all hunters know this alarm sound much too well.


This is an aggressive call that bucks make to one another when tensions get heated prior to coming to blows. A lot of times a buck will do this as he is circling is opponent, or as they approach each other, in an attempt to get him to back off.

Buck Roar:

It is a sound that bucks make when they are at the height of aggression or frustration. It is a buck grunt on steroids, which starts out as an aggressive grunt, that quickly, and sharply, turns into an almost scream, or well, roar.

Like I said, understanding deer vocabulary can definitely make you a better hunter. Try it out and see how it goes for you!