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What you need to know about deer tracks

What you need to know about deer tracks

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Through the years in any hunting camp I’ve ever been in, a track expert, who can tell the size, sex and age of a deer by its tracks, always seems to have been in residence.

I’ve stalked deer before that the width of their tracks has convinced me they’re bucks. Also I’ve had hunters tell me that seeing the dew claws as part of the deer track is a definite indication that the animal making the track is a buck.

Because so much misinformation exists about deer tracks and what information they can communicate to hunters, I’ve talked to wildlife biologists and avid deer hunters to learn the truth about deer tracks.

Like you, I’ve known hunters who’ve said, “I saw the track of Ole Mossy Horns down by the creek last Thursday. I’m sure that’s him, because I’ve examined his track for the last three years. He’s got a very big track. One of these days I’m going to find him standing in it.”

However, retired wildlife professor Horace Gore is skeptical about a hunter’s ability to determine that one particular track has been made by the same deer year after year.

“If the deer’s track is exceptionally big, you may be able to say year after year that the same deer made the track,” Grace said. “But the deer will have to be an unusually large deer. Deer tracks don’t mean that much in helping to denote one deer from another, when the ground’s dry and hard.

“You may have a better chance of distinguishing a specific deer’s track from another in places like South Carolina, where much of the ground is soft. Still, the deer must have an unusual track — perhaps crippled in some way or a somewhat different-looking foot — to be discernible. Identifying deer by their dropped antlers is a more effective way to do that.”

Longtime wildlife biologist Bob Zaiglin says that seeing the deer that has made the track is far-more important than looking at a track and attempting to determine anything about the animal.

“The main function tracks perform is to notify you that a deer has walked through this place at some time in the past,” Zaiglin said. “Discovering deer tracks is no guarantee that the same deer will walk back through that region again.

“Generally deer tracks don’t tell you the sex or the size of the deer. Much of the information about deer tracks are old wives’ tales we’ve heard.

“But deer tracks are only suppositions and good conversation fodder for campfire talk.”

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