A confusing and somewhat frustrating aspect of bowhunting whitetail deer is being able to tell the difference between a doe and a young buck. Depending on what you are hunting for, mistaking the two can be surprisingly common, unlike hunting buck who tend to stand out with their large antlers. Though harvesting doe is a necessity at times, understanding the differences between them and a button buck is still crucial; something that is much easier said than done.
The physical traits of a doe and button buck are extremely similar, but there are a few key characteristics to look out for. For one, adult does are much larger than younger bucks. They are typically taller and longer with a slight rectangular shape to their midsections. Their snouts are almost always longer as well, compared to a young buck’s shorter snout.
Because of their smaller size, fawns have more of a square midsection, as they are equally long as they are tall. Additionally, young males will have flat, stubbier heads. This is why they are referred to as “button bucks.” The buttons atop their heads are budding antlers. Female deer, whether fawns or does, will have much more rounded heads.
Behavioral traits are much more challenging to catch, though they can give away a deer that may be difficult to decipher. Button bucks are much less cautious when it comes to being out in the open. This is evident when observing a popular feeding ground. Young males will confidently trot out to eat, whereas females of all ages are much more timid, coming off as nervous.
Their behaviors are also differentiated when you take note of how many other deer they are traveling with. Does will stick together going off of the notion that there is safety in numbers, but button bucks generally travel solo. Should you come across a small herd of just two, chances are the larger deer is a young male. Herds of three or more typically include a parent doe somewhere in the mix.
It’s important to note that deer are much more easily defined from a higher position where their pedicles are clearly visible. Always take advantage of some basic hunting gear to do so, such as binoculars and a field guide. Once you’ve mastered the art of identifying each type of whitetail deer, your bowhunting abilities will begin to improve tremendously.