Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on April 1, 2014





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Q. – I am a shed antler hunter and was wondering how long after one antler drops before the other side is shed, and is there any way to accurately gauge when this will happen?

B. G. – Forestport, NY


A. – It has been my experience that once one antler is cast, the opposing antler will be shed within 24 hours. However, that is not always the case. For example, the accompanying photograph is of a buck that had shed his right side four days prior to this photo. I have found, when it comes to predicting what should be expected with whitetails, to expect the unexpected. The typical problem we run into with wildlife in general, and whitetails in particular is when we attempt to lump behavior into generalizations. We don’t do this with humans; each is viewed uniquely with character traits all their own. I suppose it becomes easy to generalize deer behavior simply because most don’t spend much time around them. I have found that each deer has its own personality traits, bents and disposition.


Although extreme cold can certainly aid in expediting the shedding process, as is often thought, this is not the primary reason for antlers to drop. I indeed believe that each buck is predisposed to shed his antlers on or about the same date each year. But, and this is a big but, stress has everything to do with when these appendages ultimately fall. If a buck has been highly active during the fall rut and has depleted a great deal of body fat, he is undoubtedly under stress. Add in falling temperatures, deep snow and difficulty finding food and you have all the ingredients for an early casting. The less stress on an animal the longer he will hold his antlers.


Q. – I realize how good a deer’s sense of smell is, but can they detect any odor from my boot prints in the snow and if so, does this alarm them?

T. S. – Holland, MI


A. – Unquestionably, a whitetails nose is its greatest defense. I have maintained for years that if you could eliminate a deer’s sense of smell far more would die at the hand of hunters. Unlike humans, a whitetail can easily separate a variety of scents and quickly distinguish how fresh and if it poses an imminent danger to them.


Understand there are certain atmospheric conditions that enhance residue odors better than others. For example, when the air is saturated with moisture scent becomes much more prevalent than when the humidity is very low. In fact, all animals find it difficult to detect scent in cold, dry conditions.

The amount of scent that can be detected from your boot print in the snow would depend on the type of snow, how cold it is, how long the imprint has been there and how dirty the bottoms of your boots are. Personally I don’t give it much thought as I’ve observed deer walking in my very prints with their nose low to the ground curiously sniffing as they walked. In fact, I once killed a large buck that walked for several hundred yards in my tracks from the day before.

Can they detect odor in the snow? Yes, I believe they can, as most bucks who are cruising the woods looking for does routinely follow the spoor of their prospective mates. I’ve also tracked several bucks that ran their normal course across doe trails. A behavior I believe that facilitates them quickly establishing through scent the breeding condition of the resident does.


Q. – As a tracker that spends most if not all of your daylight hours in the woods during the deer season, do you carry water with you?

R. N. – Bethel, ME



A. – This is a question that I am routinely asked wherever I go to speak. For many years I never carried water instead, in my pocket was a thin piece of aluminum that folds out into a cone type drinking cup and when I come across a stream that poses no danger of having any beaver activity I would take a drink. That has not been the case for the past decade or so as I now carry 16 OZ of water on my gun belt in a noiseless container. The benefit of this liquid far outweighs the added encumbrance. I have learned as I’ve aged that staying hydrated is as important as any other detail while engaged in the hunt.



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