The Houdini Effect

Posted on August 13, 2013


Buck Naked Cover

Editors note, Guest blogger, Jim Collyer,  has written a most insightful book, Buck Naked – The Straight Dope On Trophy Whitetails, and is available at: available from Amazon.






Bucks seem to appear out of nowhere only to seemingly vanish into thin air. It’s so common, we expect it. Even Harry Houdini couldn’t perform such magic or could he?


The magic doesn’t actually have a thing to do with a buck’s movement or the terrain he inhabits. In reality, the vanishing act is often a result within our own minds. Understanding how and what we see can greatly improve your hunting success.  More often than not, the deer move in plain sight. We just fail to see it.

A deer’s eyes are on the sides of its head to help in the detection of movement. Human eyes are located on the front of our faces, which greatly aids in depth perception and focus. However, we are only able to achieve sharp focus in about 1/1000th of our entire field of view. Everything outside of our center of vision becomes blurry and darkened. It’s a loophole in the brain, one in which a deer can take full advantage of. This ability to focus keeps us from seeing a lot of what’s going on peripherally around us.  It’s the same tactic magicians use to fool us with “sleight of hand” tricks.

Allow me to explain:

Have you ever seen the magician’s trick where he hides a ball under one of three cups? Quickly, he moves the cups around and once he stops, we are asked to guess which cup the ball is under. We get it wrong almost every time. While we focused on the cup the ball was originally under, the magician slides the ball to another cup. We missed it. This happens because our minds have trained our eyes to focus on objects and not on the gaps between objects.


Humans focus in extremely high resolution. This leaves our peripheral vision capable of only low resolution.  Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time. We draw associations of where we expect the deer to appear or re-appear, and when the buck doesn’t show where we expected, we sharpen our focus and miss any movement in our peripheral vision. A lot of this movement is in plain sight, believe it or not. Thinking we possess am enhanced field of vision is only an illusion.

The more we concentrate our focus, the less we see in our peripheral view, and the more action we miss. This tendency to focus on objects rather than the gaps between objects is called, unintentional blindness.

As hunters, our eyes focus on trees, rocks, and limbs. We wait for a deer to appear and in the process, miss a lot of what’s going on in the gaps. Those gaps are where the deer are moving.  We just missed it. The drab brown coloration of a deer blends well within its habitat, which helps conceal him and makes his escape easier.


My favorite Harry Houdini illusion was the one where he would bet there wasn’t a jail cell that could hold him for an hour. He preformed the stunt many times and managed to escape from every jail cell except one-the Preston, Lancashire jail in England. Houdini tried for two hours to escape from that jail. Finally, exasperated he gave up and leaned against the jail cell door, and when he did, it suddenly swung open. The door had only been locked in Houdini’s mind.  The reason he stayed trapped was because he only knew about locked doors. He was trying to “unlock” a lock that wasn’t locked.

This certainly gives pause to wonder how many deer are mentally locked from our view because they aren’t where we expected them to be.

 Gold 5-1

Try not to let your mind see what it expects to see. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll visualize with less concentration and more awareness of everything around you. It doesn’t matter if you are still hunting, tracking or stand hunting, if you ease up on your concentration and instead look into the gaps, you’ll see a lot more deer.

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