Knowing how to read these five important deer signs will lead you to a successful hunt.
Reading deer signs when hunting is a bit more complicated than navigating unfamiliar streets with a smartphone. We all wish interpreting the clues deer leave behind was as easy as communicating on social media.
But understanding deer signs is not as hard as you might think. Here are the five most important deer signs with tips for how to decipher each one so that you can make your next deer hunt a successful one.
A big deer makes a big bed. There are clues you can decipher from their resting spot that will maximize your hunting chances.
Deer are chronic bed-wetters. If the urine is towards one end or the other, it is likely you are looking at a female bedding spot. If you see urine in the middle of a bed, chances are you are looking at a bachelor bed.
Are there other beds nearby? Are they the same size? If not, you could be looking at a doe bed with younger deer. If the beds are all fairly large and it is the right time of the year, it could be a bachelor group. The above “pee test” will further help you decipher what deer might have made the beds.
Deer enjoy a room with a view. Consider where this deer decided to bed down and the advantages to that specific spot. Say you are looking at a fresh, relatively large bed with urine concentrated in the center of it. If it is located on the end of a large ridge overlooking a hardwood bottom with thick cover not far away, then it very well may be a big buck.
A big deer makes a big track. You must consider the last time it rained, what type of cover you are in and the spacing of the tracks.
A deer hoof can be a tricky thing. If a deer is in loose soil or mud, a track can appear much larger than it truly is. Snow can be wonderful to track in, but here in northern Mississippi I don’t get as much practice in snow as I’d like. The best indicator of you being in a good area is looking for funnels where tracks should be and finding a good amount of traffic.
Scrapes serve as Facebook for deer, but with urine. If you want to know what is going on in the deer world, go pee or sniff around the community scrape. If a doe wishes to change her status from single to “in heat,” she pees in a scrape. Needless to say, bucks keep their nose aware of this deer social media.
A scrape will usually explain itself by its location. Say you find a large scrape in relatively thick cover. If it is part of a well-defined line with mangled, over-hanging branches, you might be dealing with a mature buck.
Big bucks rub whatever they want. It can be as big as a utility pole or a measly sapling. Younger, subordinate bucks don’t push the limits of “false advertising.” A small buck rubbing a big tree would be like posting Bradley Cooper’s picture on my dating site profile. Somebody is going to be severely disappointed.
So when you find a big rub, a good buck did it. When finding a lot of small rubs, you could be dealing with either. Determine how thoroughly smaller rubs are worked over. If they are practically destroyed, a big boy could be the culprit. If there are a lot of small trees merely scratched up a bit, it’s likely you are dealing with a small buck with a Napoleon complex.
We all have sat in our stands overlooking big rubs daydreaming about the buck that made it. One crucial point to remember about rubs- bucks use them without really “using” them. Bucks scent check rubs throughout the season from safe distances, so focus on rubs with surrounding cover where you can hunt.
1. Fellow hunters
When hunting for deer signs, you should look for evidence of competition from your fellow hunters. You need to pay attention to other hunters as much as you do the deer.
Deer are much more responsive to our actions than we are to their patterns. If you see the tell-tale signs of 500 yard road radius hunters, walk a little further. Hunt thicker cover, whatever it takes.
Pay attention to these signs and try something different, you can bet the deer will.