Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on March 30, 2021



March Column



Editor’s note:  Anyone wishing to send a question for future “Ask The Deer Tracker” posts can e-mail it to,




Q. – Late this summer I photographed two different fawns just two days apart in two different locations of the Adirondacks. The first was a fawn in the northern Adirondacks, which had all but lost its spots and appeared to be quite far along on transitioning into its winter coat.  The other fawn was photographed approximately 100 miles farther to the southeast near Lake George.  This fawn still had its summer coat and all of its spots.  Most of the fawns I see in this area regularly lose their spots around mid-September.

Coincidently I hunt in both of the aforementioned regions. In the fall we began seeing buck sign in the forms of rubs and scrapes up north in late October.  Ironically, we didn’t have such findings in the Lake George region until mid-November, right around the time of the full moon on the 13th. I follow closely and with much interest the work of Charles Alsheimer, you and others who relate the whitetail rut to the full moon. However, I can’t help but notice an association between last season’s buck sign and these two fawns and wonder if the rut kicked in a bit earlier in parts north than it did farther south around Lake George. Your thoughts?

    D. L. – Fort Ann, NY


A. – To fully address your question I must break down my response into two separate categories, fawn maturation, and buck sign as it relates to the rut. Let’s first start with the maturation of fawns. Like children, fawns mature at a rate that is genetically programmed to its parents. Some fawns will grow faster, be larger and loose their spots sooner than other fawns of roughly the same age. By way of comparative, I didn’t have to start shaving until I was a sophomore in college while I had friends that could grow a full beard when they were freshman in high school. Another aspect to consider is the very real prospect that the two fawns mentioned could be at least 14-days apart in birth. That doesn’t sound like much but can indeed make a real difference in timing of when the spots disappear. Thirdly, the further north whitetails reside generally means they have to have a greater body mass to survive harsher winters, which would include an earlier start on growing their winter coat as opposed to the fawns living further south. Fourthly, it is quite possible that the fawn you sighted still having its spots could have been born to a doe that did not conceive during the initial rut. That would mean that this fawn was born at least 28-days later than its cousin to the north. Coincidently enough, I just spotted on October 11, a spotted fawn, still in its summer coat of auburn hair following its mother – talk about a late birth.



Based upon the above information, to try to correlate a difference in rut timing based on comparative fawns living 100-miles apart would indeed be speculative at best in my humble opinion. Regarding the buck sign found within both the north and southern regions that you hunt tells me that in one area you have considerable competition amongst the buck population as opposed to a lack of it in the other. Buck sign in the form of rubs and scrapes are advertisements, business cards if you will, made by bucks to advertise to all other bucks that they are the stud; the greater the number of bucks, the more intense and number of scrapes and rubs that will be found. The timing of when this begins each fall has everything to do with testosterone and attitude. When there is little-to-no competition, this usually occurs when you have three or more adult does available for every antlered buck, there is no real reason for a buck to advertise.

Based on the information you have provided, my guess is that in your northern area you have a doe-to-buck ratio of roughly 2-to-1 with bucks having to compete for breeding, whereas in the south, the sign that you found around the full moon, and not before, had more to do with frustrated bucks that were following does not quite ready to breed.


Q. – As a still-hunter and tracker when conditions allow, I make every attempt to pare my equipment down to the bare essentials. Realizing that you hunt in the same fashion I was curious to know if you carry any type of binoculars? I currently hunt with open sights and am torn as to whether I want to carry the extra weight.
    J. T. – Brillion, WI



A. – The ongoing personal battle of what to carry and not carry into the deer woods is a continual war within my own mind. I carry more today than I ever have, including a GPS, water and a camera (a piece of equipment I would never be without.) When I was using peep sites, I would always have a monocular on a lanyard around my neck. Anytime that I needed to verify if what I was looking at with my naked eye was an ear, antler or throat patch of a deer all I needed to do is pull the eye piece up. My suggestion would be to either go with one of these, or a compact set of good binoculars, especially when you are still hunting on bare ground.


Q. – It is difficult to admit that last fall I shot a deer during our rifle season, wounded it and failed to recover the animal. I solicited help from three friends and despite our best effort we lost the blood trail. How many people do you feel is ideal when it comes to tracking a wounded deer, or any animal for that matter?

   K. H. – Underhill, VT



A. – It is of my opinion that four people tracking a wounded deer is far too many for the job. Ideally, two would be all that is needed. You need someone that is quick at picking out subtle details and able to spot blood on any surface. The best way to tackle this is to have the best individual at reading sign to follow the trail while the person behind watches the surroundings for the animal. When you come to a spot where the blood seems to have disappeared, the trailing person stays on the last spot of blood while the tracker does half circles fanning out further and further until the next spot is located.




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