Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Analysing Deer Behaviour: Flight, Refuge and Jink

I was looking over one of the local hills from the cover of some undergrowth, when I spooked a herd of fallow deer.

They were kind enough to put on a demonstration of some of the key animal behaviours I described in one of my books.


The first thing the deer did was to bolt away from a perceived threat (me!). This is FLIGHT behaviour. It is a fast instinctive response, all about getting away from something.

Deer flight behaviour
Deer are in FLIGHT away from perceived first threat – me

The second thing they did, once they had headed away from the threat, was to start heading towards their REFUGE. This is different in each animal and each species of deer, but in the case of fallow deer, they will head towards tree cover, normally uphill.

You can watch them switch from flight to refuge in the video.

But then something interesting happens. The deer turn away from the trees that had been their planned refuge. This is because they perceived a second threat (the vehicle coming down the track) and this led to the avoiding action, the JINK. The deer had to deviate and pick a new route to their refuge, via another small group of trees. The Jink is like a weaker form of flight behaviour. It is about avoiding something without the need to head in the opposite direction. Almost all prey animals, including birds, will jink at times.

The deer then pause just above the thin line of trees. I’m fairly sure they are assessing whether they need to expend the energy to continue all the way up the hill to the woodland or not.


Deer jink away from new threat
Deer JINK away from second threat – farm vehicle
Deer FLIGHT towards new REFUGE after JINK

In the video, you may also hear the ALARM calls of the birds near my hiding spot. This is another of ‘keys’ I wrote about in the book.

For more details on these behaviours and dozens of others please see the book, Wild Signs and Star Paths (UK) / The Nature Instinct (US)).