Illinois Outdoors at
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Marc Anthony of Goodfield owns and operates Look Alive Taxidermy and Non Typical Hunter magazine. Anthony grew up in central Illinois and spent eight years as a commercial pilot before giving that up to spend more time with his wife Jan and three children, Victoria, Drake and Elesa. Anthony hunted on and off as a child but started seriously at age 30 and focuses on bowhunting for deer and turkeys. He's arrowed four bucks that meet the Boone and Crockett Club (net) standards and 20 Pope and Young Club qualifiers. Anthony is on the Pro Staff for Muzzy broadheads, Bear Archery, Vital Gear, Natural Predator, Non Typical Hunter and several other companies. He also is a member of the Outdoor writers Association of America, OWAA.


Non-typical Hunter

A Web log by Marc Anthony

Illinois hunting and fishing

Buck or Doe, which is it?

January 05, 2009 at 06:21 PM

With the late firearm season just around the corner, some of you understandably would rather not shoot a buck. With the added stress of an early season cold snap in addition to the hormonal adjustments going on within the buck’s body, chances are great you’ll have bucks with dropped antlers in your fields. How does one determine the difference between a buck and a doe this time of year? It can be challenging, no doubt about it.

Without getting into a full blown article here on details, lets just outline some quick facts for you to consider. Here’s a quick snapshot:

1. An adult doe will usually stand still for a bit in the open analyzing the current situation before signaling to the rest of the herd it’s OK to feed. Button bucks will either come out quickly or remain near trees, cover, etc. before moving into the open. They rarely come into the open and wait.

2. Does have real long necks and snouts.

3. Button bucks will often travel alone.

4. A button buck’s body is almost square but a doe is closer to a rectangular shape.

5. The top of a doe’s head is really round, almost like a light bulb. A buck’s forehead is much flatter.

6. Of course, look for blood where the antlers should be. Blood is an indication of dropped antlers.

7. Big bucks still wait at the end of the herd, even this time of year, before they venture out.

8. Some hunters claim that the button buck has a more pronounced white area around their muzzle, I haven’t had the chance to verify that claim though.

The thing I look for the most when hunting late season deer, is the antler or its base. If it’s too dark to see without having to get close, I look for the neck size and so forth. One thing I don’t overlook is the body language. In my opinion, body language tells it all. Bucks walk and act one way and does act another way, it’s characteristic in nature. I spent a few years raising deer for my children years ago just simply because they were great pets and my children loved them. I remember one year we drove 7 hours to southern IL. and back to pick up another doe. I brought the fawn home and started bottle feeding it, just like the others before her. I even clipped off the “doe” tag from her ear a day later and began trainer her as a pet. I remember in the second week, I was curious why she was so feisty as the others before her were so docile. She would see me coming in the morning and tilt her head down at me like a bull and swing her front hooves at me to spar. As cute as she was, I began to think that something wasn’t right. I absolutely did not want to raise a buck! Bucks are not good with children and get worse closer to the rut. After several examinations, (and it was hard at that age) I realized my doe was really a buck and misidentified. Long story short, another 7 hours on the road to make the exchange. A big difference it was! Our new little doe was like one of the family. She jumped in my bed to watch TV at night with my wife and I, (can somebody say hillbilly) woke us up in the morning when she was hungry and yes, she was even house broke! That wouldn’t happen with a buck. Deer gender can be identified by behavior!

If you have some patience, take a little time to examine what’s in front of you before you shoot. Even if you don’t care what you shoot, you may find it a bit thrilling to notice the difference in gender if you take the time to notice. I always try to make hunting fun (and adventurous) if at all possible and this is just another avenue to explore. If you’re the type of hunter who just really enjoys to be outdoors, you’ll find pleasure in tapping into another one of nature’s mysteries!


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