The ABCs Of Tracking Deer – Part III

Posted on August 7, 2018



“For every buck killed there will be a dozen failures. This type of hunting demands the utmost in perseverance and patience.” Larry Kollor – Shots at Whitetails 1948



Contrary to popular belief and written documentation when it comes to differentiating doe and buck tracks, this author believes wholeheartedly one can indeed determine the gender of the deer that made the tracks without ever laying eyes on the animal.

1. Rather than looking at one single imprint, the trackers eyes must focus on the series of tracks the deer made as it walked. A whitetail exhibits the distinction of their body form and shape as they stride along. A buck carries the bulk of his girth and weight up front whereas the doe has a markedly larger rear frame.


2. A buck, regardless of his age or physical size will always toe out as he walks. The heavier the animal, the more pronounced this trait would become.


3. A doe, as she walks will always leave tracks exhibiting an even toe or a slight toe in.

4. As snow depths increase, all deer will drag their feet as they plod along. What is often misinterpreted is that bucks will always leave drag marks. Due to that inaccuracy, those tracks devoid of that characteristic are dismissed as belonging to female deer, which is certainly not the case. The main reason bucks drag their feet more frequently is really quite simple, it’s from fatigue. When a buck has had the opportunity to rest and rises from his bed fresh, there is little evidence of him “dragging his heels”.



5. A buck follows a doe or group of does for one reason, he wants to breed. A mature buck will use other males, particularly subordinates, to his selfish advantage and will preserve his hide to their detriment but cannot use them to ensure the coast is clear. Whitetails just don’t posses that kind of intellect.


6. Here are my criteria for assessing whether or not a buck is large enough for me to track:
A. The width of the track. If it measures 3” or more across it was made by a buck that will dress at 200 lbs or better.


B. The depth of the track. How deep is he sinking into the earth and what portion of the track is more pronounced. The heavier a buck becomes the more his weight will be transferred to the rear of his hoof rather than the tips.


C. Lastly, the length of the track. Dew claw imprints are least critical as there are a number of big footed bucks walking the planet that have not grown into their hoofs as of yet.


7. If after all of the above criteria has been determined and you still cannot conclusively tell the gender that made the imprints, follow the tracks for a distance. There is one fool-proof sign left on a blanket of snow that will clearly define its maker. A buck, after he urinates will dribble as he continues on his course. This can be readily seen in the yellow marks dotting the snow between his tracks. Female deer do not dribble. This male behavior becomes even more pronounced as the rut intensifies.

All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier
© 2018 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

Posted in: Whitetail Deer