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How Accurate Do You Have to Be Part 6 By Dr. Ken Nordberg

How Accurate Do You Have to Be Part 6

By Dr. Ken Nordberg

The deer hunting method that most contributes to accurate and humane shooting is an advanced form of stand hunting which I call “Opportunistic Stand Hunting.” While using this hunting method, the hunter becomes very difficult for whitetails to identify, sitting quietly and well hidden by natural, unaltered cover at ground level, using a backpacked stool, or above the ground in a tree, using a portable stand, changing stand sites once or twice daily. While hunting in this manner, not only are the odds of seeing unsuspecting deer short distances away enormously improved but most deer seen will be unaware of the hunter’s presence and will therefore be walking at an unhurried pace, often halting, making them easy targets (unlike most deer seen by those who hunt deer on foot). The superior hunting success provided to this particular hunting method is attributable to the following rule: always approach and sit downwind or crosswind within easy shooting distance of very fresh tracks and/or droppings made by whitetails – deer signs that reveal trails and sites such as feeding areas where certain whitetails are likely to be located right now, best periods early or late in the day.

Though more than 90% of whitetails taken by American hunters annually are fawns and yearlings, most hunters consider mature deer 2-1/2 years of age or older to be more desirable quarries. As most veteran hunters realize, however, older much-experienced whitetails are much more difficult to hunt than inexperienced fawns and yearlings. The most elusive whitetails of them all are bucks 4-1/4 to 6-1/2 years of age (very few wild bucks live longer). Bucks of these ages are in their prime, antlers largest, and are dominant over most or all other antlered bucks living within their home/breeding ranges (up to 1-2 square-miles in size), having vanquished them in battle. Those most dominant are capable of keeping other antlered bucks out of their ranges while does are in heat in November, thus being the bucks that pass on their superior genetics to future generations of whitetails.

As elusive as older, experienced whitetails are, they can be successfully taken via stand hunting and keying on them every day or half-day rather than settling for younger vulnerable deer discovered while wandering about on foot. In order to key on specific classes of deer without initially seeing them and then stand hunt within short range of trails or sites currently frequented by them, hunters must learn to identify specific whitetails and their current locations via measurements of their fresh tracks and droppings. The enormous (though little realized) hunting value of fresh tracks and droppings is attributable to the simple fact that little deer have little hoofs and droppings, bigger deer have bigger hoofs and droppings and the biggest deer (older bucks only) have the biggest hoofs and droppings.

Mature does of northern U.S, states and Canada have hoof prints that measure about 3-1/2 inches in length (not including dewclaws). All smaller hoof prints are made by yearling does and fawns. Hoof prints of yearling bucks are also 3-1/2 inches in length, but their tracks are not ordinarily accompanied by tracks of fawns. All longer hoof prints are made by mature bucks only. Hoof prints about four inches in length are made by bucks 4-1/2 to 6-1/2 years of age, trophy-class bucks (worthy of taxidermy). Whitetails of warmer southern U.S. states are smaller animals (though they do not necessarily have smaller antlers) and thus have smaller hoof prints and droppings,

Most droppings made by mature does and yearling bucks of the northern U.S. and Canada are ½ inch in length. Shorter droppings are made by yearling does and fawns. Longer droppings, commonly clumped during October and November, are made by mature bucks only. Droppings measuring ¾ inch or more are typically made by bucks 3-1/2 to 6-1/2 years of age. When scouting or hunting while leaves are falling or before snow covers the ground, fresh droppings are often the most visible of deer signs with superior and reliable hunting value. Hunters should never overlook them. During many hunting seasons they may provide the only means of identifying and successfully hunting specific deer.

Finding trails and sites currently frequented by certain whitetails, made evident by fresh tracks and/or droppings, is one of several parts of regularly successful stand hunting. To preserve the hunting value of these signs, easily ruined, and get to well selected stand sites without alerting or alarming deer expected to be near will be my next subject.


“Opportunistic Stand Hunting,” is soon to be explained in great detail in Dr. Nordberg’s 10th Edition of Whitetail Hunter’s Almanac (initially an ebook). Dr. Nordberg has written more than 700 articles for outdoor magazines since 1980, 10 bestselling books about whitetails & improved hunting methods & 3 about how to hunt trophy-class black bears – books that changed to way whitetails & black bears are hunted in North America forever. All are based on his unique, hunting-related field studies, still ongoing, of wild deer and black bears since 1970. For complete information and to reach Dr. Nordberg, go to


Today, great knowledge and skillful stand hunting is needed to take many younger bucks such as this 2-1/2 year old.

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