If you’re a hunter, understanding the characteristics of various wild animals is key to a successful hunting trip. As an outdoorsman knows, there are many ways to identify an animal - from their binomial name and description to basic physical features like fur or feather coloration.
But for today's discussion, we will focus on just four general characteristics of a game animal that can help you identify and distinguish them from non-game animals properly – Any specific markings, size, shape & body parts; sound & vocalizations; movement patterns; and habitat or environment it occupies.
Let’s examine each character in more detail so you can master your wildlife identification skills!
Identifying Animals by their Physical Characteristics
As a hunter, you need to recognize key characteristics of game animals by understanding the distinguishing physical features that separate them from nongame animals. Elk, for instance, possess thick antlers with a regal shape and several distinct tines sprouting off their main beams.
In comparison, deer have smaller antlers with flatter surfaces and sharp tips that point downward. Muleys, as they are called, are also equipped with white tail patches along the backside of their bodies.
As for pronghorn antelope, they stand out in herds due to their characteristic black-and-white fur patterns and pronging horns. Visible to many hunters is the whitish-gray fur coloration of the American bison, which stands in stark contrast against its dark, pointed horns or humpback.
Last but not least, wild boar feature visible tusks attached to their upper jawbones that extend outward from either side of their faces.
Ultimately these iconic markings are each indicative of the various big game animals in North America and can be observed by any hunter who's taking on the challenge of tracking down his or her prey.
Sound & Vocalizations of Game Animals
As hunters, we must learn to recognize that understanding the sounds and vocalizations of game animals makes us better informed and greatly increases our chances of success. Different species make many distinct sounds, from honks, bleats, and snorts to elk bugles and a wide variety of birdsong to communicate among the members of the same species.
Knowing their differences helps us determine which type of animal might be nearby. White-tailed deer communicate with loud grunts during mating season, while elk produce a dramatic bugle.
The antelope's “cackle”—a sharp yelp with nasal undertones—is unfamiliar to many, which can carry hundreds of yards in the open country. Understanding the characteristics of the animal and soundscape gives hunters valuable clues about where and when animals are moving so they can more accurately pursue their quarry.
Movement Patterns of Game Animals and Birds
Hunting is both an art and a science, and one of the key elements to successful hunting is to learn to recognize the key characteristics of the species you are hunting. Knowing the movement patterns of game animals and birds can aid in identifying similar species as well as identifying animals accurately well as locating them.
For example, when tracking mule deer, it is helpful to understand that they move in short jumps with pauses between each movement. Turkeys, on the other hand, tend to strut while they walk or feed.
When observing waterfowl in flight, hunters should pay attention to their fast or slow wing beats depending on the type of bird. Also, experienced hunters have likely come across the zigzag in-flight pattern from a common snipe when flushed from its hiding spot.
Being aware of these various animal movements and paying attention to details can often mean the difference between success and paying a penalty for an illegal harvest.
It is also important to know which species move throughout the day and typically prefer certain types of habitat or are more active at certain times can help you quickly identify them. For example, turkeys tend to feed on the ground during early morning hours, while deer rest during these hours. Ducks are most active on ponds and lakes early in the morning or just before dusk.
These few wildlife identification tips should serve as a starting point for hunters looking for a game, but still, require practice and observation so you can adapt to different species in your hunting area.
Group Behavior and Flock patterns
When you are hunting for a particular, it is not just about understanding the distinguishing features, wildlife sign like tracks, calls, and habitats can also help you understand group behavior and thereby help you succeed.
Hunting game animals and birds can be easier when hunters understand flock patterns and group behaviors. When scouting an area, hunters should watch out for the presence of more than one animal or bird in the same place as they are often found together in groups.
Additionally, look for evidence that they have been feeding in an area, such as bowed vegetation or footprints on dirt paths. Familiarize yourself with different flock behaviors like "V" formations which geese use to fly in perfect unity, or other formations like a line, circle, or echelon that smaller birds will usually take.
Understanding specific hunting techniques for different species can also help you determine if a particular animal is a game species or not. With all this knowledge in hand, even beginning hunters will be better equipped to both identity game properly and hunt their desired targets without too much difficulty.
Hunters need to become familiar with the characteristics of game animals and birds, their movement patterns, group behavior, and flock patterns in order to identify game animals properly.
Study your local hunting regulations publication well to under these and to gain a lot more insight before you start preparing. With this knowledge, they can more accurately identify species as well as locate them.
Becoming an expert hunter takes practice but understanding these basics will help hunters succeed in bagging their target without too much difficulty or paying a penalty for illegal hunting.
Remember that, hunters play a role in wildlife conservation and so it's essential that all hunters are aware of which species should be considered game animals and remember to follow the regulations set by wildlife managers when hunting any animal or bird.
To Recognize Your Game Animal, you need to have the right hunting optics: