Removing a sufficient number of does is an important part of any deer management plan but just as important is limiting the accidental take of young, antlerless males or button bucks (BBs). Here’s a few tips to help you avoid thinning out future trophies before they’ve had a chance to realize their potential.
No Solo. Avoid taking lone antlerless deer, especially during the rut or when hunting a food plot. Adult does seldom travel alone, preferring to travel together in social groups with fawns and other does. During the rut, fawns often become separated from their mother temporarily, and veteran hunters know the first deer in the field is almost always a button buck. Judging the size and sex of a single deer is more difficult. Wait until you see several deer together so you can look for obvious size differences. Then harvest one of the larger antlerless deer.
Head or Tails? If you’re still not sure, look at physical characteristics like head and body shape and size. A fawn's forehead and nose will appear much shorter (similar to an 8-ounce soda bottle) in comparison to the adult doe's head (similar to a 16-ounce soda bottle). This distinction is much easier if you have several deer present to compare. Fawns also have short, square bodies, short necks and less muscle development. Adult does have larger, rectangular-shaped bodies, long necks and swaying backs or sagging bellies.
Heads It Is. Now go back to the head and look closely for the pedicles or antler bases. A doe's head is more rounded on top between the ears. A button buck’s will appear more flattened due to by the presence of the pedicles.
Miss Behaving. Behavior can often be a clue, at least to age. Fawns tend to be more careless or care free. They may saunter or even trot into a food source while more cautious and wary adult does stand back and check things out first.
Practice. Don’t wait until the moment of truth when you may have to make a snap judgement. Spend time looking over deer, lots of deer. Study the physical and behavioral characteristics listed above so that when you do have to make a choice you can automatically make the right one.