How to Read Deer Tracks in the Snow

How to read deer tracks in the snow.. Illustration by Mike Sudal

Face it. Just about all your deer hunting’s been sit-and-wait. Doesn’t matter if you sit in a tree or in a ground blind, the routine is the same: Pattern the deer, place your stand, set your 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? Here, 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 dissect a deer track.

These clues to tell you a lot about the freshness of a track—and the size of the deer that left it. Illustration by Mike Sudal

Find what look to be fresh deer tracks. Beside them, make a palm print in the snow, then press its edges. Now, press the edges and midline of the hoof print. If the track is hot, the snow will give way just as easily.Debris inside the hoof print, such as springtail snow fleas or windblown snow, is a sign of an older track.Look for traits in the print, such as a longer toe or a chipped hoof, to help you stay on the tracks of a specific deer.The width of the dewclaw impressions can tell you more about the size of the deer than the length of the toes. If their outer edges measure 3 inches or more, that’s a deer worth following.

A set of whitetail tracks leads to a bedding area. Colin Kearns

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