John's Journal...


Deer Track Quiz, Part II

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve heard talk that a big buck is feeding in a green field, but despite watching from dawn to dusk, you haven’t seen hide or hair of him, just some does and small bucks. What’s wrong? As long-time deer hunter Larry Norton of Butler, Alabama, explains, "Big bucks, especially in the South, rarely come to green fields in daylight hours, even during the rut. They don't have to come out in the open and show themselves to find a hot doe but instead can walk along a trail 30 to 40 yards off the downwind side of the field and still smell the does. Generally they'll wait until dark and then move out into the fields to eat." So, you haven’t seen the big buck because he’s not using the same trail as the does and the smaller bucks. The lesson: deer use several different kinds of paths or trails. If you know what to look for and where to look, you can take a stand and drastically increase your ability to find and bag deer. Let’s take a look at some of those trails, and try a short quiz that’ll help separate rumor from reality.

5) Question: If you see the dew claws in the deer's track, is this any indication that a buck has made that track?
Horace Gore, a wildlife biologist from Texas, says, "No. Often the size of the animal and the medium the track is being placed in will Click to enlargedetermine the depth of the print and whether or not a dew claw is apparent in the print. In soft mud or clay, even the track of yearling deer may reveal a dew claw. In a freshly plowed field, the print of a dew claw can be present as part of the track. However, a very large buck walking across rock or hard clay may not leave a big tracks at all or dew claw prints in the tracks."

6) Question: Why is finding a trail with tracks going in both directions important to success when deer hunting?
Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, an avid deer hunter who also teaches deer-hunting seminars, has learned that discovering a trail with tracks going in both directions often signals he's at a deer hot spot. "One of the best places to find this kind of trail is in a funnel area where the terrain is necked-down by two different types of converging habitats. Deer will move back and forth along this trail all day to get from one section of woods to the other part of woods. Before when I've set up my tree stand near a trail with tracks going in both directions, I've seen deer throughout the day. To me, a trail with two directional tracks is one of the best places for a hunter to take a stand." Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist who manages several Texas ranches, emphasizes the importance of locating trails that meet or intersect to see more deer. "If the trail goes in two directions, you don't know where the deer are moving to – right or left. In certain geographical areas, trails come from all different directions with a pivot point where Click to enlargethey cross – generally the most-productive place to concentrate your hunting." As Horace Gore mentions, "Obviously if you find a trail with tracks going in two directions, the deer probably are going to a food supply and coming back to a bedding ground. Then you can adjust your hunting times. If the tracks only are going one way, then you don't necessarily know what the deer are doing."

7) Question: How important is locating deer tracks to a successful hunt plan?
"Obviously, you want to see some deer tracks to reassure yourself psychologically there are deer around," Zaiglin mentions. "But on many places with dry, rocky terrain, like southern Texas and Mexico, you won't see any tracks, even though plenty of deer may be in an area. As both a wildlife manager and an avid deer hunter, I don't like to see too many tracks, because that indicates too many deer are on the land. Too many deer mean the animals lack quality and few, if any, will be trophy bucks." Horace Gore considers seeing tracks as very important to a deer hunter's scouting successfully. "Seeing deer tracks when you're scouting out a hunting region reminds me of the old saying, 'If a deer is there, he's making tracks.' If you're scouting a spot looking for trails and deer sign but don't find any tracks, perhaps no deer are in the region."

8) Question: Can you identify the track of Click to enlargeone particular deer in an area and from its track continue to hunt that same deer for several years?
Wildlife biologist 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 has made the track. In Texas where I primarily hunt, deer tracks don't mean that much in helping to denote one deer from another, due to the ground's being so dry and hard. You may have a better chance of distinguishing a specific deer's track from another in places like Mississippi, Alabama and/or East Texas, 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."

Check back each day this week for more about TRACKS AND TRAILS – WHAT DO THEY TELL?

Day 1: Meandering Trails, Terrain Trails and Mating Trails
Day 2: Water, Food and Bedding Trails
Day 3: Escape Trails, Night Trails and Snow Trails
Day 4: Deer Track Quiz, Part I
Day 5: Deer Track Quiz, Part II



Entry 335, Day 5