Deer Tracks Provide Other Valuable Information

As I stated in my previous blog, fresh tracks of walking deer in or adjacent to feeding areas can ensure hunting success if properly taken advantage of. Fresh tracks can also enable a hunter to key on specific classes (5) of whitetails, including mature bucks. The reason is, little deer have little hoofs, bigger deer have bigger hoofs and the biggest deer, mature bucks only, have the biggest hoofs.

Throughout my first decade of studying wild Minnesota whitetails (beginning in 1960), I measured countless tracks of various classes of Minnesota whitetails that were actually seen and identified, plus hoofs of deer taken by hunters. Eventually, my track research enabled me to very accurately identify five behavioral classes of whitetails by their hoof lengths all over America (deer classes and their hoof lengths are smaller in southern states). Today, I do not include indentations made by dewclaws when measuring hoof prints. The five classes of northern whitetails and their identifying hoof lengths are:

Fawns with live weights of less than 90 pounds have hoofs measuring 2 to 2-3/8 inches in length.

Yearling does, smaller than their mothers but larger than fawns, weighing about 120 pounds, have hoof prints measuring 2-5/8 inches in length.

Yearling bucks, spikes or fork-horns 1-1/2 years of age, and mature does 2-1/2 to 14-1/2 years of age are about the same size with a live weight of 140–150 pounds. Both have hoof prints measuring 3 to 3-1/8 inches in length.

Bucks 2-1/2 years-old, 6–8 pointers with an inside spread of 12–14 inches, weigh 170–195 pounds and have hoof prints that measure 3-3/8 inches in length.

Bucks 3-1/2 to 6-1/2 years old (though few are taken by hunters, few live longer), 8–12 pointers with inside spreads of 16–21 inches weigh 195–305 pounds and have hoofs measuring 3-5/8 to 4 inches in length.

What this means is, if you skillfully use hunting tactics designed to avoid alarming whitetails and key on very fresh identifying hoof prints made by any class of whitetail, your odds of taking that class of whitetail will be enormously improved. If you key on very recently made hoof prints 3-5/8 to 4 inches in length, your odds of taking the most wary and elusive of whitetails, namely mature bucks, will also be greatly improved.

This approach to whitetail hunting is most applicable when and where snow covers the ground during hunting seasons. Without snow (more common these days), my hunting partners and I commonly key on different deer signs (see my next blog).


Yes, There are Deer Signs That Ensure Hunting Success

Where do you like to stand hunt? Anywhere in the woods? Where you have a great field of view? Next to a deer trail? In the middle of a large patch of brush? At the edge of a cornfield? Where you got a picture of a big buck with your trail cam? Next to a corn feeder or food/bait plot? At sites where you and your hunting partners have been stand hunting for years? Sure, every now and then someone takes a deer at one of these sites. What about mature bucks? Hardly see any of them? That’s typical. Do you know about 40% of the deer in your hunting area (including yearling bucks) are actually antlered?

“No way,” you say? This answer alone reveals you have much to learn.

Do you know there are deer signs than practically guarantee hunting success? If you knew what they look like, where to find them and how to take advantage of them, you can actually take a mature whitetail (not a mere fawn or yearling) or even a mature buck every hunting season.

One of the most productive of such deer signs is “fresh tracks of a walking deer in or next to a whitetail feeding area.” A walking deer is an unalarmed deer, feeding or approaching or departing from its current favorite feeding area. If such tracks are discovered without nearby deer realizing it before 9–10 AM in the morning or after 3–4 PM in the afternoon, that deer is in or very near that feeding area right now. If found after 9–10 AM or before 3–4 PM, that deer is currently bedded somewhere near or far from the feeding area. If not alarmed by a hunter meanwhile or if it has not yet discovered you waiting in ambush there, it is practically guaranteed that deer will return to that same feeding area during the next 1–3 periods whitetails normally feed, (the number depending on how skilled you are at stand hunting), practically guaranteeing you will have an opportunity to take that deer. If you key on such deer signs in or near current favorite whitetail feeding areas every hunting season, at several different sites per season if necessary, you can be a regularly successful whitetail hunter, or if you prefer, a regularly successful buck hunter (accomplished by keying on fresh mature-buck-sized tracks).

What you have just learned probably seems amazing, but troubling. You might be thinking this can only work if those fresh tracks happen to be close to your favorite stand site. Deer only returning to the same feeding area 1–3 times is probably another a troubling thought, suggesting you might need several new stand sites. This in itself is likely troubling as well because like most whitetail hunters you are probably unsure what a whitetail feeding area looks like if not a farm field or clearcut. For answers to all your newly aroused questions, watch for my future blogs.