Ask The Biologist

Tracking Bucks

Tracking Bucks

By Bob Humphrey

Our biologist says you can’t identify a deer by a single track.

QUESTION: I’m hoping you can settle an argument for me. Is there any way to tell the difference between a buck track and a doe track? –Harold B.

ANSWER: Ah, yes, this is one of those classic deer camp debates that will probably go on forever. It is not possible to tell the sex of the deer by looking at one track. It simply cannot be done.

A bigger track suggests a buck, but there are some big does out there. Several does been killed in my home state of Maine that had a dressed weight of over 200 pounds. I’ll bet they had pretty big feet. The same thing applies to how deep into the soil that track is.

Some say the more rounded the hoofs, the greater chance it’s a buck. As deer get older, their hooves get rounder at the tip. But in the wild, in hunted populations, does tend to outlive bucks, sometimes by a lot.

Having said all that, it is possible to distinguish a buck track from a doe track, but you have to be real good. Bucks tend to be wider at the shoulders and narrower at the hips, while the opposite is true for does. The difference is very slight. In both sexes, the front hooves tend to be ever so slightly larger than the rear hooves. So, if you can distinguish the front hoof prints from the rear, then determine whether the front prints are ever so slightly inside the rear, or vice versa, you might be able to tell if the track was left by a buck or a doe.

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