Big Buck Tracks – What Do They Look Like? (With Photos) | Buck Track ID

4-Finger Big Buck Track
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Big buck tracks have some key features that separate them from smaller deer tracks. However, if you’re not careful you might mistake a smaller deer for a big buck track. Here’s how you can be sure you’ve found a big buck track:

Key Identification Features Of Big Buck Tracks

Factors That Make Deer Tracks Look Bigger Than They Actually Are:

First, you’ll want to consider these factors because these can cause you to misjudge a track:

  • Ground Density (Soft vs Hard)

Soft ground can make tracks look bigger than they are because they sink in further. When a deer track sinks into the ground the toes can appear more splayed and the dew claws will appear more clearly. In these situations it is important to use the other indicators below to gauge if the track was indeed made by a big buck.

  • Behavior/Demeanor

Stride length of a deer track will vary depending on what the deer is doing. If he is well rested and actively seeking does then his stride will appear long, if that same deer is feeding his stride length will appear short. If possible it is always a good idea to follow the tracks to get an average stride length.

  • Running vs Walking Tracks

A running track can look like a big buck track but when in reality it may just be a doe or small buck. This is because when a deer is running there is more momentum when the track is made. This causes the toes to splay and the dew clays to show. It is important to establish whether the deer is walking or running when the track was made to get an accurate determination.

  • Temperature

In snow conditions, temperature plays a big role in the size of a track. For example, if the temperature is above freezing and the tracks are melting, the track will round-out making it looking bigger than it actually is.

Deer Track That Looks Bigger Than It Actually Is
This is a photo of a running deer track that looks big. You can tell a running track because the hooves will be close together (note the track just above my hand). The dew claws are pretty close together and the deer appears to have slipped forward slightly upon impact. This track could still be made by a big buck but more information is needed for an accurate determination.

After You’ve Considered The Above Factors, it’s time to consider the following:

  • Track Length

The length of the track is a great indicator of a big buck track simply because big buck tracks will be bigger than the rest of the deer herd. I’ve found tracks that are around 4.5-inches in length or bigger have potential to be a big buck track. However, there is more to consider than just track length.

  • Track Width

Track width is probably a better indicator than track length but they often go hand-in-hand. A track that is around 3-inches is width is usually made by a big buck. The wideness of a track is usually a direct correlation to weight.

  • Splayed Toes

When I am referring to splayed toes I am talking about the gap between the toes. Splayed toes also goes hand-in-hand with track width. The heavier a buck is the more is toes will spread out to hold the weight of the deer.

  • Dew Claws

The dew claws are the two digits that are located behind the toes of a deer. Both does and buck have dew claws but usually only big bucks will leave clear dewclaw marks. It is possible to see the dewclaws of does and smaller bucks in soft mud and snow. That said, the dewclaws will be much more pronounced and wider than those of smaller deer. On big bucks the dewclaws are also tilted at a 45-degree angle and setback from the toes further than lighter deer, which will be closer to the toes and more strait.

  • Swagger/Gait

Another indicator of weight is the swagger or weight of a deer because a wide swagger means a big chested buck, or a fatter buck. The toes of these bucks will be pointed outwards rather than strait ahead.

  • Stride Length

The stride of a deer is also an indicator of weight because it measures the overall length of the deer. A longer stride means a longer buck which means a heavier deer.

  • Toe Dragging

In snow, big bucks will drag their feet because they are heavier, older, stiffer, and are trying to conserve as much energy as possible when they walk. This is accomplished by not lifting their feet any higher than is absolutely necessary. All deer will drag their feet in deeper snow but big bucks will drag their feet in very little snow. Big bucks will also drag their feet more in deeper snow, leaving cross country ski-like trails in their wake.

What Do Big Buck Tracks Look Like?

Big Buck Tracks In Snow

My article below: How to Track Big Woods Bucks in Snow – The Art of Reading Deer Tracks goes into detail on how to differentiate big buck tracks from smaller deer tracks in snow. You can apply these same concepts to big buck tracks in mud, sand, wet ground…etc.

Big buck track dragging toes in snow
Toes dragging is a sign of an older buck. Can you see the toe dragger in this group of tracks? The other tracks are also made by big bucks but one set of tracks is likely made by an older buck.

Big Buck Tracks In Mud

Big Buck Tracks With Swagger
This buck has a wide swagger/gait, notice the toes pointing outwards – indicating a big chested buck.
Big Buck Track In Mud with splayed toes and dew claws
Big Buck Track In Mud with splayed toes and dew claws. This track is about 5″ long and 3″ wide. Notice how far the dewclaws are setback from the toes.

Big Buck Tracks In Sand

Big Buck Track On Sand
This is one of the biggest buck tracks I have ever seen. This buck is so heavy that his toes are bowing outwards. Also note his far setback dewclaws even on hard powerline sand.
Big Platter Foot Buck Tracks On Hard Sand
These are tracks made by the same buck. The tracks are so splayed they barely look like deer tracks. The fact that these tracks were made on hard powerline sand is even more impressive.

Big Buck Tracks On Wet Ground

Big Buck Track On Wet Ground
Big Buck Track On Wet Ground – You can see the dew claws by my thumb if you look closely.
Buck Track In Mud
This track isn’t as long as some of the other tracks but it is still wide and the dewclaws are showing. The ground conditions here are pretty hard under the immediate surface. This is the track of a big buck.

Big Buck Tracks vs Small Deer Tracks

Notice the difference between the bigger buck track and the smaller deer track in the photo below. There are no dew claws showing and almost no toe splaying on the track to the right.

Big Buck Track vs Doe Track Comparison
Big Buck Track vs Small Deer Track Comparison

Do All Big Bucks Have Big Tracks?

Not all big bucks have big tracks, but the vast majority do. A small track can sometimes be from a big buck with small feet, and a big track can be made by a smaller deer with big feet. This is where using other indicators is helpful for confirming if a track is made by a big buck.

Putting It All Together

A big buck may have some or all of the characteristics described above. Of course, the more indicators a buck is showing, the better chance you’re on a big buck’s track.  After you’ve seen a few of what I call the 10% tracks (meaning only 10% of deer have tracks that big) and applying these concepts in this post you’ll easily be able to identify big buck tracks and differentiate between big buck tracks and other deer tracks.

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Article Written By: Jason Tome

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