Hunting requires skill, stamina, and a little bit of luck. Tracking deer through snow, rain, or sleet is not for the faint of heart. With a bit of knowledge, you can improve your chances of filling your tags because you’ll find where the deer are hiding.
Make no mistake about it. The deer know that you’re out there trying to find them. They’ll do their best to stay disguised.
That’s why knowing how to interpret the clues they leave behind can make or break your hunting experience for the year. Deer droppings offer several points of useful information that will help to improve your chances of a successful season.
What Are the Clues that Deer Leave Behind?
#1. Wet and Shiny
Droppings that look fresh indicate that the deer went through the area within the last 12 hours. These will look wet, almost shiny in the light, because the moisture content is still high. This clue indicates that you’re in the best spot to start hunting.
#2. Dull and Dry
Once the moisture leaves the deer droppings, they’ll begin to shrink and harden. Some grow lighter in color. These pellets will look dry and dull, indicating that they’re at least 24 hours old, if not more. This clue means you need to hunt somewhere else.
#3. Large and in Charge
A large pile of pellets indicates that you’re on the track of a mature buck. Does typically leave a small set of droppings, with fawns providing even less behind as evidence. If you’re hunting before or after rutting season, then set up shop whenever you find a fresh set of large droppings.
#4. Firm and Fresh
If the pellets you find are firm, then that indicates the deer eat fibrous items. Bushes, twigs, and hay (like alfalfa) will cause this issue. Look for signs of chewing or move toward a known crop field to fill your tags.
#5. Loose and Fresh
Loose deer droppings indicate the animal enjoys eating some fruit. Move toward a local orchard or grove of apple, plum, or pear trees to produce results.
#6. Hidden Large Piles
If you find a large pile of droppings hidden under a heavy cover in the trees, then you’ve struck gold. That’s likely a bedding site being used by a buck. Move from the pellets toward a significant food resource in the area. Then build your treestand along that route. There’s a good chance you’ll see that big boy wander by in a day or two.
#7. Open Large Piles
Deer typically wander into the open when they feel safe. If you find large piles in fields, meadows, or treeless hills, then you’ve seen a feeding area for local family groups. Your scent will drive them away from this area. Retreat to a transition area or find a place of heavy cover to reduce the chances that they will spot you.
Some hunters think the idea of tracking deer droppings is something used by beginners only. This information should never be ignored. If you can interpret what you find, then you’ll know where to be to have a successful experience.