Urban deer are different, to a degree. I sat 20 feet in an ash tree watching a group of about 20 does nibble along from yard to yard in the backyards of three houses 80 yards away. When a car would pull into one of the drives and slam a car door shut, or activate the garage-door opener, the group would all run away in the same direction they’d come from. A few minutes later, the same group would return on the same trail. The homeowner would take the garbage out and bang some cans or something and the deer would do the same thing. I watched this routine several more times during my evening hunt.
This taught me that one young deer will spook the whole herd, even if they don’t know why. So when the lead doe caught me drawing my bow, she sent the herd back the way they approached from. Knowing they would eventually come back, I knew that the lead doe would be looking for me, trying to validate what she saw and point me out to the rest of the ladies. I’ll show her, I said to myself. I’ll pull a little trick I like to call the “tilt-a-whirl”.
The “tilt-a-whirl” is where I rotate my stand on the other side of the tree, putting the tree between me and where the deer will return. Minutes passed, and here came the does again. The first to appear was the same lead doe looking for the blob she thought she had seen earlier. I peeked around my tree and I could practically see her thinking, “well there was something there!” She begins to quarter-away at 30 yards as the herd feeds. My draw goes undetected this time, and my arrow finds its mark. The herd retreats once more.
Big-woods deer seldom return on the same trail, and if a mature doe catches you moving, you can bet she will snort you all the way back to your truck. But I believe urban deer have accepted being spooked, and they don’t seem to snort as often. Urban deer also accept a certain level of human scent and noise. It’s always good practice to be as scent-free as possible, but for urban deer, you have some wiggle room. They are used to smelling homeowners and hearing dogs bark or kids playing in the yard.
It is possible to take down a nice, mature buck in a fairly populated urban area. Take, for instance, this evening hunt on one of my urban properties. I was helping a friend fill his buck tag and we probably spent 45 minutes walking in circles, climbers on our backs, banging and clanking, trying to find a perfect setup where we could hunt together. It was peak rut, and the plan was for me to do the calling and Jim to do the shooting. Once we settled in and things got quiet, I started a rattling and grunt sequence. The wind was variable and I was pretty skeptical, to be honest. We were less than 100 yards away from the houses and I didn’t want to call too loud, afraid someone would come looking to see what all the commotion was behind their home. After my third sequence, a nice 8-point came in from the south. He passed my stand at a mere 5 yards, giving a beautiful broadside shot for Jim. Understanding what you can get away with is key to killing an urban legend.