Summer hunting delight: deciphering white-tailed deer tracks

Tony Peterson Aside from possibly May, June is my least favorite month to scout deer. Bucks’ antlers are just starting to show some character, the crops are beginning to poke through the soil, and it just feels like a waiting game at this point. However, that doesn’t stop me from scouting; I just look at things a bit differently right now.

For starters, I don’t spend any time sitting behind a spotting scope looking for feeding bachelor groups in the evenings. Instead, I walk field edges, logging roads, and the shores of rivers and ponds looking for tracks. Since I’m not much of a “hit list” type of hunter, I instead opt to set my standards to a certain age or class of buck. This allows me the opportunity to scour soil and sand for deer tracks of a certain size. This tells me with fair certainty that a buck I’d be happy to tag has walked through an area.

The author spends a lot of time cruising field edges, logging roads, and the shores of ponds and rivers looking for deer tracks that are at least 3.5 inches long. To quickly measure a track, he carries a pocketknife that has a 3-inch blade on it.Typically, any track that’s 3.5 inches or longer, has been made by a mature buck.  I carry a pocketknife with a blade that is three inches long so I can quickly check the size of a track while scouting. To further reap some benefit from identifying where a big buck walked, try to follow his tracks as far as you can in both directions. The difficulty of this will vary greatly depending on recent rainfall and the type of terrain he happened to choose for a travel corridor.       

Although it’s not as exciting as checking a trail camera or viewing several velvet-antlered bucks feeding in a soybean field, looking for fresh tracks and the clues they provide can prove beneficial come fall. Other than after a fresh snow in late-season or post-season, there is no better time to scout with this method than right now.

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