How to read deer tracks in the snow.. Illustration by Mike Sudal
Face it. Almost all of your deer hunting has been sit-and-wait. It doesn’t matter if you sit in a tree or in a blind, the routine is the same: model the deer, set up your stand, set the alarm, harvest your buck. And that’s fine, but haven’t you always wanted to track a deer in the snow like those big woods hunters in Maine and Montana? This is where you’ll need a new set of skills, and now is a good time to perfect them. You don’t need your rifle, at least not to start – just your persistence. Here are some clues to help you spot a deer trail.
- Find what appear to be fresh deer tracks. Next to them make a palm print in the snow and then press its edges. Now, press the edges and the middle line of the hoof print. If the track is hot, the snow will give way just as easily.
- Debris inside the hoof print, such as spring tail snow fleas or windblown snow, is a sign of an older track.
- Look for features in the print, such as a longer toe or cloven hoof, to help you stay on the trail of a particular deer.
- The width of the dewclaw marks can tell you more about the size of the deer than the length of the toes. If their outer edges are 3 inches or more, that’s a deer worth pursuing.