My home is built on land carved out of what was once a large, hilly, wooded urban park. The property undulates a ways from the back of the house, slopes down about 30', flattens into a glen, then rises to a ridge about 50' in height. The area is populated with tall elms, poplars, birch and ash with a few pines, locusts and other native trees in the mix.

A small herd of about a couple of dozen whitetail deer share these woods with the human residents. The area provides great cover for them. It's also a good source of food, and they forage around the house and surrounding woods most days.

It is well known that deer actively feed in the early morning, at dusk and on moonlit nights. Many evenings around dusk, weather permitting [by that I mean temps > 0 degrees, no rain or blinding snow, and wind less than gale force], I walk out onto the deck to contemplate, drink a glass of wine and/or smoke a good cigar. This is also a perfect time to observe the deer feeding in the woods on shoots and leaves of woody plants which they generally do in groups of about three to six.

Having grown accustomed to humans, they wander the neighborhood, frequently stopping to stare though a kitchen window and regularly can be spied walking single file down the middle of the street without trepidation. But, when feeding, the deer are alert and wary and they move stealthily through the woods, often freezing at unfamiliar or sudden sounds and scents. At times, they'll spook and move with dispatch, covering a great deal of ground very quickly, only to freeze and look around the glen three times. As they feed, they tend to cluster withing a few yards of one another. Safety in numbers, I guess.

Often, one will stray from the group for a while, then others follow and they cluster again. Rarely does one that strays return to the group. It is almost always the other way around, as if the stray was the point man or was scouting the next stop on the buffet. When they move as a group, it is almost always single file. One might characterize the movement of these observed groups as being in fits and starts, and along paths from node to node.

Observing deer in the forest at dusk is not an easy task. If they move quickly, one can hear a rhythmic rustle of leaves and try to use that sound to locate them. Unfortunately, it's not unlike the sound of the gray squirrels frolicking, so one can easily come up with nothing but tree-rats by using that method.

And, deer have evolved to blend into the natural habitat, even in winter when there is no foliage. In color, they are very similar to the gray-brown bark of trees with mossy highlights, making it very difficult to discern the deer among the vegetation. Walking to an observation point, standing very still and staring into and through the stands of trees produces very few observations, even if the deer are in relatively close proximity, so well do they blend in. But, one can increase one's chances if one thinks a little differently.

What I've found works nicely [for me] in locating these particular deer unaided by optics is to look for specific shapes.

The trees in the habitat are strongly vertically oriented, except those that have fallen to the forest floor. Deer, on one hand, have long slender legs that at a distance look very similar to saplings or small diameter tree trunks. In other words, they are vertically oriented and virtually invisible. On the other hand, deer bodies are long, thick and horizontally oriented.

I've found that peering into the woods, focusing on a small section at a time, attempting to distinguish horizontal shapes approximately the size of a medium tree trunk, i.e., a couple of feet in diameter, from the vertical noise is a pretty effective method of finding a deer among the trees. Even though their coloration is nearly identical to the forest of tree bark that surrounds them, while standing, the deer cannot hide their predominantly horizontal bearing. And, except for the few fallen tree trunks, there are far fewer horizontal shapes in these woods than vertical, and virtually none at three to five feet from the ground.

The trick seems to be to focus first on any horizontal shape rather than looking for the complete shape we know to be 'a deer'. The latter offers too much distracting information and angles that more easily blend in to the cover, while the former allows one to drill down to the basic configuration by immediately eliminating a great deal of superfluous data.

Last evening, using this method, it took about 30 seconds to find four feeding deer hidden on the side of the ridge. Thinking through this feeding and discovery technique while watching them feed, I wondered if good market or trading opportunities cluster. Or if they are fluid, moving sometimes with stealth, sometimes with abandon. Or if they hide among lesser opportunities, camouflaged and appearing to be something they're not. Yes to all, I suppose.

But, I wonder if the better question is, when looking for the profitable side of a trade, or the right stock, or the market's path in amongst all the possibilities, we might not be well served as often as not by looking for the horizontal shapes among the vertical.

A couple thoughts before closing;

1. This post is not about deer hunting, about which I know less than zero.

2. BP = d/ [1+ square root of p1/p2], Reilly's Law of Retail Gravitation………..(stats on the table.)

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Brilliant post by Hillman. Reminds me of L'Amour's story similar to the godfather Bastian where a master leader of rustlers teaches his son every thing. First thing he has to learn after fixing the faro wheel and shooting straight and of course boxing is to catch a deer by the tail the way Indians do without the deer knowing your there. 

David Hillman writes: 

The Indian way conjures up thoughts of the little guys trying to grab the tail of the flexions, just to get a little piece of the action before the flex notices you're there and kicks you in the face. 


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