Face it, we hunters we are infatuated with feces—especially when it comes to whitetails. It’s for good reason, too. There is a lot to discover from it. Here are 10 facts about deer pellets that you might not know, but can help you put venison in the freezer.
1. Deer Poop—A lot
Wildlife biologists agree that deer defecate roughly 13 times per day during the fall months. If you consider a family group of deer consisting of two does and three fawns, it amounts to 65 different excretions during a single day. As hunters, we often build our deer hotspots around rubs and scrapes. A bad plan? No, but if you find a trail lined with pellets, you should take notice. One of my best Colorado whitetail stands isn’t on a rub or scrape line, but rather in a spot where deer pellets traditionally abound. When I discovered it, I did a hang-and-hunt in the area and saw 14 different deer. Over time, as I learned the property more, I came to realize that the area is a major staging zone used by the deer just before heading out to the big ag fields for the evening.
2. Buck Or Doe?
Many hunters believe that they can tell the sex of a deer by the size or shape of their pellets. I’m one of them. Earlier this season, I watched a large buck tend a doe in a massive sea of tamarack. The duo was unapproachable, and despite my best grunts and snort-wheezes, I couldn’t get the brute to come investigate. Days later, I checked the area out. I found a number of piles of long, formed droppings along with countless piles of smaller-sized pellets. Their size and length allowed me to easily distinguish between buck and doe droppings. Many top researchers do suggest that the length of a formed pile can suggest buck or doe, especially when dealing with a mature buck.
3 . Numbers Matter
I’ve never sat down in a bedding area or stopped along a trail to count, but top researchers suggest that bucks drop more pellets than does. On average, bucks drop around 75 per excretion. Whether you believe you can determine deer sex or not from the size of poop, you should take notice when you see lots and lots of pellets on the ground. Chances are, they belong to a buck.
4. What’s On Their Menu?
Knowing what deer are feeding on provides solid clues about where you need to spend your time in the woods. Deer biologists note that picking through poop can actually help us identify what a deer is eating. The shape and consistency can provide valuable information. Round individual droppings indicate a diet of browse such as leaves and twigs. A diet of acorns can also produce roundish-sized droppings. Long, tubular-like piles suggest softer foods like grasses, alfalfa, and clover. If you happen to find a few pieces of gold in those pellets, you might want to spend some time in your cornfield stand.
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5. Identify A Bedding Area
If you stumble upon countless piles of poop, especially poop that is in or right next to a bed, you’ve found a deer bedroom. Often, bedroom piles are uniformed or clumped. Typically, when a deer stands before evening movement, they stretch and defecate. Deer will also drop dung while feeding. If you find lots and lots of poop in a given area, you’re more likely to be in either a bedding or feeding zone than a travel corridor.
6. Rub It In
Deer poop makes a great cover scent. Whenever I find a fresh pile, I step in it. If the poop is dry and I’m tent camping and not able to shower daily, I rub it on my clothing.
7. Make Your Move
If you’re hunting an area and the action seems to cease, take a walk around. If the droppings you’re finding are dark in color and hard, they are days and sometimes weeks old. Slip around the woods and look for piles of dung with a greasy greenish tint. Soft brown pellets that hold moisture also suggest poop that hasn’t aged much. Keep temperature in mind. Hot dry days pull moisture from feces quickly. If temps are warm and the poop is wet, you’re in the right area.
8. Spring Scouting
I’m a bit of a shed hunting nut. Sadly, my home deer dirt doesn’t hold many ungulates during the spring months, so I have to strike out and find new areas. The first thing I look for besides bone on the ground is poop—and it’s even easier to find in the spring. Fiber from the new growth of grass and browse causes deer to defecate more frequently—up to 27 times a day. Find the pellets and you’ll find more sheds.
9. Perform A Count
You can take your deer pellet studies a bit further and conduct a post-hunt, deer-per-square-mile population survey. All you need to do is hit the major divides along a one-square-mile area of your hunting grounds. Count the number of different individual droppings and then divide that number by 13. The more times you perform this process during the off-season months, the more accurate your results will be.