August 24, 2023

Hunting Terminology: How to Speak to Hunters

A whitetail buck stands in a grassy field, searching for female deer during fall rut.

You’re not a hunter. At least, not yet. You may have listened to a hunting story or two if you’ve sat around a campfire at night or beside your grandfather on holidays. You may have nodded along, not knowing what every word meant.

Hunting comes with its own terminology. If you’re new to it, hunting lingo can confuse you. You’ve heard people pepper their sentences with slang. Find the definitions of their favorite hunting words so that you can be in the discussion. 

Impress your hunting spouse or feel more confident when asking experienced hunters for advice. If you’ve been wondering what some hunting sayings are, see below for common hunting terms. After this read, you’ll be a true hunting conversationalist. 

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Basic Hunting Words

Enter the hunting lexicon. Start here for a glossary of standard hunting terms. 

Bag limit: The number of animals you can harvest. States set harvest regulations per season or day, depending on the species. 

Bagged out: You’ve harvested your limit. Hunters use this expression when bird hunting. 

Blind: Hunters use blinds to stay hidden from view. 

Drive: No vehicle is involved here! Driving is when hunters walk through an area to push animals toward another hunter.

Glassing: You’ll often glass while elk hunting. You use binoculars to scan the landscape around you while you spot and stalk bulls. 

Skunked: You’ve come home empty-handed. 

Tagged out: You’ve harvested your limit. You’ll hear this expression about deer hunting.

Tree stand: Stay out of sight with a tree stand. These platforms are attached to trees about 20 feet up. 

Winded: An animal caught your scent and ran off. 

Deer Hunting Lingo 

Do you have deer hunters in your family? Get familiar with these terms so you’re ready when they start talking across the table. 

Buck rub: Bucks rub against trees during rut or to remove velvet on new antlers. These scrapes mark a deer’s territory. 

Ground shrinkage: A buck’s size can be hard to judge. Ground shrinkage is when a buck looks bigger from far away or in the blind. 

Grunt: During rut, bucks make deep noises called grunts. Hunters use calls to grunt back.

Mass: When you hear the word mass, it refers to measuring a buck’s antlers

Rattling: When hunters hit antlers together, it’s called rattling. Hunters try this technique to mimic bucks fighting. 

Rut: The breeding season for deer. AKA the best time for deer hunting! Bucks are more active during rut, which happens in the fall. 

Snort: A noise deer make when alarmed. 

Spread: The length between the tip of the right and left antlers. A wide spread may mean a trophy buck. 

Tines: These are the forks on antlers.

Hunter Speak: Deer Hunter Slang

Understand deer hunting slang. Explore words used to describe deer or what happened on a hunting trip

Baldy: You guessed it. A baldy is a doe or antlerless deer. 

Big buck down: You shot a buck! People use versions of this phrase when elk hunting—big bull down—or turkey hunting—big bird down. During deer hunting season, you may receive a few texts with this phrase or its acronym, BBD.

Breaking the ice: You harvested your first deer of the season. 

Buck fever: Spot a buck? Wahoo! Buck fever happens when you see a deer, especially the first one of the season, and feel an adrenaline rush. Once you have buck fever, it lasts all season long.

Button buck: A nub buck! Button bucks are young male deer. They have nubs but no antlers yet.  

Freezer queen: A doe that will feed your family for many weeks to come.

Old warrior: He’s the deer that’s been around for years and has probably evaded you before.

Spike: A young deer with only two antler spikes instead of antlers that branch off. 

Wall hanger: Good enough to hang on the wall! Every hunter has a different perspective on the antlers they mount. Many choose the best and biggest. Others prefer the ones with the best story to tell. 

Turkey Hunting Terminology

You may not walk the walk yet, but you can start talking the talk! Shore up your hunting knowledge with these words. 

Boss Tom: He’s the oldest and biggest male turkey on the property. 

Box call: You can’t go out without the proper turkey hunting gear like calls. You can call turkeys using a box call. You’ll scrape the top of the call’s lid against the box.

Bust: The day is a bust if you scare off a bunch of birds. 

Caruncles: These are the red wattles on a turkey’s neck.

Courtesy gobble: Sometimes, turkeys are polite. When a turkey responds to your call only once, it’s a courtesy gobble.

Diaphragm call: Hunters use air to produce sounds through diaphragm calls. They are the most challenging calls to learn how to use.   

Drumming: When a male turkey struts, he makes a sound called drumming.

Dust bath: Every turkey likes a good ‘ole dust bath, which removes parasites. 

Fanned out: The fan of a turkey is its tail feathers. When a male turkey fans out, he shows off his feathers, puffing up and strutting around. 

Henned up: This is a phrase used to describe when a male turkey is hanging around several hens.

Jake: A young male turkey with a short beard.

Jenny: A young female turkey.

Longbeard: A mature turkey with a long beard. Synonyms: Tom or gobbler. 

Strutting: Male turkeys strut to attract females and assert dominance. They puff and fan their feathers to make themselves seem larger. 

Tom: A mature male turkey with a beard. Synonyms: Gobbler or longbeard. 

Waterfowl Words

Welcome waterfowl-related words to your dinner table discussions. Keep up with recounts of duck hunts with these terms.

Banded: A banded bird has been marked by biologists to collect data about migration and harvesting. This data provides insight for conservation efforts

Bluebird day: Nothing but blue skies. A bluebird day is bright and sunny. It doesn’t bode well for hunting waterfowl. 

Dabblers: Some waterfowl stay near the surface. Mallards and wood ducks are dabblers.

Divers: Waterfowl like redheads and canvasbacks dive underwater to hunt. Any bird that dives to eat is called a diver.

Flare: Birds will quickly change direction when they think they’re in danger. This pivot in flight is called flaring.

Grand passage: The term for waterfowl migration caused by a blizzard or arctic blast.

Highball: Get ducks’ attention! A highball call is several ringing quacks.

Stool: This is the term for a set of decoys. 

Tolling: When hunters bring birds into range, they are tolling.

Put Your Newfound Vocabulary to Use

Now you know how to speak the language of hunters. It’s time you put it to practice! Find an adventure and build upon your hunting terminology. Or use it to have better conversations with the hunters in your life! 

If you’re ready to start hunting, HUUNT makes it easy to find guided hunting trips. HUUNT was founded on a love of hunting and a reverence for the outdoors, which families and friends pass from generation to generation.

Sign up today, and find your passion for hunting. Members can book hunts for free and post their property to host other hunters.

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