10 Ways to Identify Different Deer

Use These Methods to Distinguish Different Bucks

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap
AntlersNon-Typical PointsInjuriesScarsEar TearsBody SizeHair ColorationMarkingsLocationBehavior and HabitsBonus Tip: Use Video Mode on Trail Cameras

1 | Antlers

The best way to distinguish a particular buck is to look at its antlers. Antlers are like fingerprints. No two sets are exactly alike. Some may look similar at first glance. But they aren’t. The number of points is an obvious one. But pay attention to mass, spread and tine length. Observe subtle differences in the curvatures of main beams and the angle at which tines are positioned. You’ll notice differences.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

2 | Non-Typical Points

Some bucks exhibit non-typical features. Always zoom in on photos and look for odd points and features on the rack. This may help determine what buck you’re looking at.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Tom Tietz

3 | Injuries

Another obvious — but effective — method is to mark any injuries you notice. While most injuries are fully recoverable over time, not all are. Such was the case with this buck I had on trail camera. It lost a portion of its back-left leg. That — along with the unique rack it grew due to the injury — was an identifiable trait from then on.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

4 | Scars

Look for scars, especially on the face, neck and shoulders. These are the most common locations for scars to be present. Like humans, deer will carry scars long after the time of injury. These can be great ways to help identify specific deer on your trail cameras and in the field.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Betty Shelton

5 | Ear Tears

A good number of deer have tears in their ears. I’ve always wondered why wild deer commonly exhibit this trait. My guess is fencing. Nonetheless, making note of the specific locations, size and shape of ear tears can help with deciding what deer you’re looking at.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Tony Campbell

6 | Body Size

It can be hard to identify specific deer based on size, especially via photos. So this is an obscure method that isn’t as effective. But it is still useful when multiple deer are in the same frame. Use this body-size tactic when you can.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

7 | Hair Coloration

This is one that I use often. Every deer has a slightly different fur pattern. The coloration, especially on the face, is slightly different from deer to deer. You’ll find white-, grey-, silver-, black-, brown-, red-, orange- and yellow-colored hairs on the face and body of deer. However, remember that there is a slight change in color between the summer and fall coat. So this tactic is best used after the deer has lost its summer outfit.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

8 | Markings

Some deer have special, unique markings on them. I commonly see differentiable markings on the face and legs. Sometimes you get really lucky and find them elsewhere, too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Bruce MacQueen

9 | Location

A whitetail has a home range of about 650 acres. It’s core area within that home range is about 40 to 50 acres. And while the location of which you see or get a photo of a buck isn’t a great way to determine which buck it is (they can travel miles, especially during the rut), it can help differentiate between deer when you factor in their given core areas and habits.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

10 | Behavior and Habits

Every deer has its own personality. And while it takes much more intel and effort than a single trail camera image, studying behavior and habits will help distinguish different deer, too. But most importantly. It’ll help you better understand how to hunt specific deer.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

11 | Bonus Tip: Use Video Mode on Trail Cameras

I don’t use it as much as I should. But video mode can be a fantastic way to help identify deer. And it’ll give you some insight into the personality of the deer, too. That’s a win-win in my book.

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

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