Tracking down your deer

With all the hype in the hunting world about tree stands, one begins to wonder what our forefathers did before the invention of climbers and fixed-position stands. Don’t get me wrong; I am not knocking on the tree stand hunters, as I hunt from one myself when the conditions are right.

Now, let’s get back to the topic. What do we do when the conditions don’t suit being up a tree? Climb down and go home, and pray that tomorrow will bring better weather? NO, climb down and track your game. It’s that simple if one has a working knowledge of how deer move about. If one doesn’t have a profound understanding, any hunter can be trained, and you can do it without an expert’s advice. I am just a sportsmanlike you, and I don’t consider myself an expert.

All one has to do is spend time in the woods and look at your game with a different eye. A quality tracker will look at all the terrain instead of focusing on a limited area around their stand.

It’s one on one. Hunter following his/ her chosen game species. Very few will argue that this is easy, but the outcome can be very rewarding.

Tracking is said to be regional, and to some extent, it is. But, it can be employed anywhere there is game to be found. In northern Maine, for instance, where there is vast acreage of undeveloped land and deer densities are low, this tactic works extremely well because big bodied deer are wide – ranging animals that cover a lot of territory in a short period of time. A sign that was fresh this morning could have been made by a deer that’s is many miles away by now, with no intentions of returning. Tracking would be the only way to find this deer.

Tracking isn’t for every hunter. It is both mentally and physically challenging. You could walk for endless miles in the snow that could be exhausting. At the same time, you must be mentally awake to your surroundings and to what the deer is doing. Come nightfall, you could miles away from your starting point, which means more walking, and you must be prepared to do this tomorrow and for however long it takes to bag your game. You need to feel competent in the woods and not fear being turned around or lost. When you do bag your trophy, you may be miles away from where you started.

To start this procedure, you must find a decent track. The track should be easy to determine what sex left it. Like male and female humans, a buck and doe carry themselves differently. A trophy buck will stand with his stance wider apart than a doe, and he swaggers when he walks. Does generally keep their feet in a daintier manner. Bucks will drag their feet, where a doe will pick hers up. The drag marks will be evident in a few inches of snow, but any deer will leave drag marks in deeper snow. Another quick tip! A doe will go under low hanging branches, where a buck will generally go around it to avoid tangling his headgear. How about another tip? A buck generally urinates as he is walking, where a doe will stop and squat. So finding a trail of urine 3 feet long in the snow and it’s a decent bet you are onto a buck.

Look for a place that a deer has stuck its nose in a track or lowered its head to eat. If you see drag marks from his antlers, you can field judge his size. No marks mean that you’re onto a doe or a buck with a lesser rack.

Now enough of the tips and clues. Let’s chase that big buck. The buck may have several hours head start on you, so you can’t go about it in a leisurely manner. You must be able to tell if he is moving along, feeding, or looking for a mate. Look for tell-tale signs.

If he is feeding as he walks along, it slows down as he is bedding down soon. This is where a good pair of binoculars comes in handy. Scan the tracks and see if you can find the buck bedded down. If not, follow the tracks with the binoculars for as far as you can see. Pick a landmark and slowly and quietly move towards it.

If he has lain down, you should be able to spot him. But, be extremely observant and quiet because a mature deer knows he is leaving a track and will watch his back trail. You don’t want the animal to sense any danger, or your work will take longer if you plan on continuing to chase your buck.

If the buck you are following is looking for a mate, looking for does that appear to be nervous and watching their back trails. More than not, a buck with only one thing on his mind will be trailing along.

The most crucial time is the final few minutes of the hunt. That’s when most will be impatient and blow it. This is one of the most crucial points of the hunt…one false move, and your buck is gone. At this time, you must be in deep concentration, your thoughts on only one thing…. Bagging your buck.

Once again, it is a very demanding way to hunt, but your results could be very rewarding in the end.

In closing, nothing will work if you not careful of wind direction and keeping yourself scent-free.

Just don’t read this for what it is….Take time to let the information sink in and come deer season, get out in the woods and find a track and follow it. The information will unfold right in front of your eyes… John

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