Tips & Tactics

Read the Sign

Read the Sign

By Ken Piper

Put some fun back into your hunting by going back to basics.

Have you ever seen a magazine article that explains how to tell the difference between a buck track and a doe track? How about one that says you can identify a deer’s sex by examining its droppings?

While it’s fun to speculate about such techniques, it is virtually impossible for 99% of hunters to predict a whitetail’s sex by tracks or droppings alone.

Maine’s Benoit brothers made careers of teaching others how to locate and track big bucks. Their success over the years was proof the techniques worked. But even the Benoit brothers used all possible information at their disposal, not to mention their tracking education started when they were boys, nor that much of their wisdom was based on tracking in snow.

For most of us, reading deer sign is more about putting together many clues. A particularly large track with a worn and rounded front certainly indicates an older buck, but that same track found repeatedly along a rub line tells a bit more of a story about its maker.

When it comes to droppings, forget anything that mentions clumping or pellets. Whitetails do not share the turkey’s calling-card dropping indicators. You can sometimes make a good guess about a deer being fully mature based on scat size, but it’s not something you would want to stake your mortgage on – and you definitely wouldn’t want bet a penny on guessing its sex by looking at scat.

On the other hand, reading deer sign and making decisions based on educated guesses is a fun part of hunting – something trail cameras have been slowly replacing over the years.

If you want to add a little bit of fun back into your scouting (and hunting), go back to your roots and study more deer sign. Trail cameras are great for validating your theories about a deer and its habits, but they shouldn’t replace good old fashioned scouting. Just don’t be fooled into thinking you can know everything about a whitetail by looking at one piece of sign.

Read Recent Tip of the Week:

Paper or Plastic? We like roll-top sacks, thank you very much.

Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd