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There's a fair amount to consider when you stumble upon tracks in the field. Knowing what the tracks can tell you before you find them is key to benefiting from the chance discovery.

Check the gait - a buck's tracks will be less organized, showing a prominent outward kick. Does and younger animals will leave tracks that go in a straight line.

What's the drag - small deer lift their hooves more completely on soft terrain, heavier deer, and bucks in particular, tend to drag their hooves, leaving clefts in the ground between tracks.

Size matters - bigger deer have bigger feet, and though size isn't the most reliable indicator, one set of exceptionally large tracks among a myriad of smaller tracks is a sure sign that a big buck is around.

How old is it - it's hard to tell how old tracks are in the field, but with a little experience, you will learn the difference between sharply-defined new tracks and their less-impressive older cousins.

How many sets - the big bucks like to run on their own, so when there's a single set of large tracks on their own, you're probably on to a winner.
 

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Here's another tip on deer "tracks": when bucks pee, they often just keep walking and pretty much pee a squiggly line all over the place. The girls squat and pee a neat little hole. This is especially noticeable in snow.
 
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I don't know about the straight line thing but there is a difference in the tracks. A doe will step in her own track and a buck won't. Not while walking in a normal gate. I think the same is true in other 4 legged animals like horses and cows, not sure, but its true with deer.
 

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Also - a doe's hoof print will look more "pretty" like kind-of a heart shape, and the tips of the hooves will not be spread out real far......whereas a large/old buck's tips will spread apart and if you were to put your index finger and your middle finger into his track you would make a peace sign.........Thought of another - an old buck's tips of his hooves will be worn down a bit and will not have the sharpe point like on does or young bucks, because of all those years of scraping the ground with them.
 

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with snow pretty easy to tell which is which, like onehorse said doe's pee spot will be to the rear and centered. The buck will spray foward even if standing or walking. Also, a 200 lb doe makes a very big track and an old big doe makes an older looking track that can trick even the best trackers. I agree that young deer/does are pretty straight foward on their tracks pointed/small/straight. Without snow tracking deer is very difficult where deer denisity is high. I prefer to locate rubs & scrapes then find the back trails that bucks are using. About the only time I track deer is when a hit deer didn't go down and need to keep track of that one's track. Good topic!
 
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huntingman where abots are you in pa? west? north? south? you can see the pateren. you don't have to say the town or anything if you don't want. lots of deerfers in pa.
 

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ronn I hunt between the towns of Clearfield and Dubois just south of I 80. Anderson Mountain. Deer denisity is still high but the last couple of years the DNR has given out a lot of doe permits resulting in lower populatiopn but a better buck/doe ratio. The area would be considered North central PA.
 
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i hunted once in pa back in 85. we were up around new milford. made my stomach hurt to see that many deer. just plain crazy to think there are places with those types of numbers having hunted nh for so long.
 

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ronn, things have changed a bit, I used to see 50 deer on first two days of rifle season, now 10-20 would be a good day. Archery can be tricky as you know, one day see 10-12 then go two days and not see a thing. On average during the rut I see 2-4 bucks/day in archery season. Not bad and quality is up. How about where you hunt?
 
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for some reason I got boot off and had to relog in. I had this great big long thing written and now its all gone. stupid box.

Anyway, NH estimates the deer pop at about 80,000 deer on about 93,000 square miles. about 12,000 deer a year are taken in a good year by 60,000 hunters. this is why most hunters shoot the first legal deer they see. Still hunting is the best way to see the most deer but then the shots get a little more iffy. If you are stand hunting 10 deer a season is pretty good. Bucks travel miles and food sources are everywhere because we don't have the agriculture even VT has. So patterning deer is hard with different food sources coming in at different times and can change in a days notices. as you know from acorns, to beech nuts, to prows.

I recently drove to Va and I take 84 to Scranton and pick up 81 south. I saw a dead deer like every half mile and the whole state smelled like dead animals. lots of deer in pa from this states point of view.

so if buck/doe ratios are better, do you do any rattling?
 

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We started several years ago with limited success using calls/rattling/mock scrapes. I think if you figure things out the puzzle comes together in a couple of days, which we call the chess game. We do see 3-7 bucks/hunter per week. Not too bad.
 
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no that's not bad at all. With the pa's harvest rules change and you guys doing the nutrition plots do you think its making a difference? in a positive way?
 

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I should have said the past discussions have been for archery season. I think the reductions in does, antler point requirements,and food plots have made a big difference in the head gear we now see. We use to shoot spikes, three's, four's, and really nasty looking racks, but now they have to be a five point and we are getting several 8 pointers with spread and now we have two 10 pointers on camera(not my camera). There has always been turkeys and grouse and bears there but they too seem to be increasing in numbers. One more thing, less hunters?????????
 
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We do have big mature deer here but has the numbers I cited show not many deer. This is why the still hunting in order to see deer. Must of the guys I know that head to places like pa go to just whack and stack then come back here to try for that big buck. I think the rules changes in pa has stopped a lot of guys from going out there any longer. May explain the less hunters thing. Unfortunately the learned habit of shooting the first legal deer is hard to break. I hunted in MD a couple years ago and passed on 10 shots on deer the first morning. I told my buddy that I would only take does or big bucks. so I passed on fork horns and spikes along with little does. Man it was an unnatural feeling to draw on a deer and not let the arrow lose. I guess that's what it takes to get big deer. I'm doing food plots in order to choose to shoot the right deer not just the deer that is in range and legal. I think the mentality is changing here, some, to taking the right deer and doing more stand hunting because of the laws that have been passed and the mild winters we've had, not last winter though, have increased the numbers. This and everyone learning more about deer management from the tube. good luck with growing, that's with all the things it takes to make happen, the deer that pa has the potential to grow.
 
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There is only one alfalfa field that I know of in my area and the owners son and his significant other ( clear throat here ), he is an anti-hunter, posted and the almost 700 acres with it. Land I've hunted and pick trash and treated better than if were mine since 79. the few fields we have are hay. the guys with animals mostly import hay from Canada when it runs out from local sources. Early spring the hay fields do pull in deer but changes pretty fast.
 

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I'd be lost as a goose up there. Without crops and oaks I wouldn't know where to start. I remember going out to Montana and seeing hay field after hay field and every once in a while ....alfalfa. Seemed like that was the draw for the animals. Still...that would be hard hunting. All in what you get used to I s'pose.
 
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when the deer get up from their naps they could go in any direction to find whatever it is they are looking for.
 

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We have lots of alphalpha fields here in Montana. One of the places I hunt is state land that borders private (posted) alphapha fields. I'm talking about hundreds of acres of it! Some of the deer move through the state land when moving from cover to fed and back. It's like a parade. Trouble with this particular spot is, I'm not the only one who knows about it and it can get "crowded". And, of course, there's the fun and frustration of watching really BIG bucks (150+ inches) that rarely ever get off the posted property. They're right out there in plain sight just hanging out. I could sit there and watch 40 - 50 deer at a time. One of these days, one of those big boys is going to make a big mistake and cross that fence while I'm there. (I hope.)
 
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