Kentucky Marsh

photo of marsh at dusk by Lang ElliottWhen it comes to soundscapes, the night choruses interest me most, and especially the remarkable array of sounds heard in marshes and swamps. Wherever I go, I seek out wetlands and the magic they hold.

I made the following recording in the spring of 1995 at a favorite swampy area in Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. It was nearly midnight. Whip-poor-wills, Spring Peepers, and distant Chorus Frogs provided a satisfying backdrop for a big surprise: the alarm calls of a two White-tailed Deers, whose airy snorts echo across the marsh in the dark of the night:

Alarm snorts of a White-tailed deer with Whip-poor-wills and frogs calling, 11:00 pm, 15 April 1995, Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

I have a number of night recordings that feature deer snorts, but this one is perhaps my best. The deers weren’t close, which worked to my advantage, producing a reverberant and unobtrusive soundscape. I like hearing the distant deer about halfway through, followed by another that is much closer.

I’m curious if you guys are familiar with this surprising sound. Have you ever heard a deer snort up close? When that happens, it can be extremely startling and make your heart skip a beat (or two, or three).


  1. I hear Southern Leopard Frogs in the background as well, as well as occasional Green Frogs. I also hear the deer bounding away.

    Yes, I have heard the snort of the White-Tailed Deer in real life, but only on one occasion. I was walking through the woods at my grandparent’s house (Dad’s parents house), when I heard it. I, for reasons I don’t recall, was staring at the ground when this happened. Maybe I was upset over something. But, thanks to you, I knew what it was and it didn’t startle me. I looked up, and there’s three does about 20 feet away from me. They then immediately bounded away.

    I think it was this year when this happened.

  2. Most of the time when a deer snorts it means I’ve been busted in my hunting endevors. I wish you could get a recording of a buck grunting and wheezing when he’s following a hot doe.

    • Yes, I’d love to get the sounds of a buck following a doe, but no luck so far. Actually, I haven’t really tried very hard to get it, the problem being that I’m not out in the field much during rutting season.

  3. Yep, we had a resident herd on my farm when I was growing up. They would come up the hollow into our front yard on a knoll, grazing, snorting, and scaring our rather large collie into hiding behind our porch columns. It is nice to hear a recording that has deer as a focus, a rather under-recorded species, I’m sure…

  4. Certainly a great sound. I have heard the snorts so often that it no longer startles me. I really like this recording for the blend of distant whips and deer. Most of my deer snort recordings are more point blank.

  5. I enjoyed this through a sheer veil of sadness. I’ve heard and felt that panicked breath when a tattered young buck stood at our creek, resolute and miserable in the end-stage of some disease, awaiting humane dispatch by wildlife vet. The lovely recording saddens me only because I realize how much I miss the deer who have become “inconsistent” with increasing human encroachment in their former habitat here. Much KaChing for gov’t coffers in development. Sigh.

  6. This takes me to such a warm place on this cold winter night. I just wish I could step outside and hear it now. I have been startled by the startled deer many times. It’s lovely that you can find places where there are no traffic noises or even a dog barking in the distance to record nature.

  7. we have a large herd of deer on our property and it’s always a treat to watch them stomp and snort- fascinating mammals. I love the call of the whipporwill! Reminds me of my days spent with my Grandparents in Oklahoma. Sadly, we no longer hear them often in Michigan anymore.

  8. We did hear that sound on a vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, and we were definitely startled! Even in this recording when I was expecting the sound, it startled me for an instant. Very unique, and very nice.

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