Understanding Ground Shrinkage: A Guide for Deer Hunters

November 10, 2022

Nick Zahniser

Nick Zahniser

Ground shrinkage, the phenomenon where a hunter misjudges the size of a buck’s rack and thinks it is much larger than it is, only to discover it is smaller than they thought once they get over to the downed animal, seems to be a more common occurrence than many hunters would like to admit. Many hunters experience this when lining up their scope for a shot or view an animal through binoculars, which doesn’t provide the proper perspective of the rack’s true size when viewed though glass.

It is also common for hunters to see a rack only as the deer is walking away to think it is much larger. A buck’s rack almost always looks bigger as it is walking away. Despite the negative connotation, shrinkage is not necessarily a bad thing and shouldn’t be a reason to cheapen the experience of the hunter or the hunt. 

While this occurrence happens to many hunters in the field and no one wants it to occur to them, there are ways to better judge bucks on the hoof. 

Understanding Ground Shrinkage

Ground shrinkage occurs because our perception of an animal’s size can be greatly influenced by adrenaline, excitement, and the unique perspective of being in the field. When you first spot a deer and decide to take a shot, it’s not uncommon for the animal to appear larger than it actually is due to the rush of the moment. Once you approach the downed deer, the reality sets in, and you may notice that it’s smaller than you initially thought.

To mitigate ground shrinkage, it’s crucial for hunters to remain as calm and composed as possible during the entire hunting process. Practice mindfulness and deep breathing to reduce adrenaline levels, which can help you make more accurate judgments about a deer’s size before pulling the trigger. Additionally, it’s essential to use optics like binoculars or a rangefinder to assess the deer’s size from a distance accurately.

Furthermore, educating yourself about deer anatomy and antler development can also aid in making better judgments about the size and age of a deer. Study field guides and seek advice from experienced hunters to refine your skills.

In conclusion, understanding ground shrinkage is essential for deer hunters aiming for precision and accurate trophy selection. By keeping a cool head, using optics, and improving your knowledge of deer anatomy, you can reduce the chances of disappointment and make every hunting trip a more rewarding experience.

To learn more on this common phenomenon, read Mike Hanback’s article “3 Thoughts on Ground Shrinkage” on Realtree.com 

Read more about ground shrinkage and other hunting topics on iSportsmanUSA.
Photo courtesy of Bill Winke.


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