How to Recognize Returning Bucks
One of the greatest things about trail cameras is the ability to watch bucks grow from year to year. But it takes a fairly simple understanding of physical and behavioral characteristics to do so. You need to be aware of the following things.
Bucks display similar antler characteristics from year to year. This really becomes apparent once a buck reaches ages three and four. Looking for similar antler structure is the first step in identifying returning whitetails.
That said, take antler structure with a grain of salt if the buck received an injury within the last year. Serious injuries will influence antler growth on the opposite side of the body where the injury occurred. Such was the case with Skyscraper, the buck I introduced you to a few weeks ago. (By the way, stay tuned for an upcoming update on the latest happenings with Skyscraper.)
Antlers don't always increase in size from year to year. However, most of the time they do. An increase in mass—with similar antler structure—is a good indication you're looking at the same deer.
A buck's body weight shifts from rump to shoulder as it ages. A yearling buck will appear to have a much larger ham than shoulder. The same goes for 2-year-old bucks. But all that changes at age three. The front half of the body appears to have the same weight as the rear end. And by age four, the front end looks heavier than the back half of the body.
This is helpful information. Look at a buck's body size from year to year. You should see a slight increase and change in body weight if it's the same deer.
A whitetail's face is much like a human's; it has unique characteristics. Use facial characteristics and colors to identify returning whitetails.
Ripped ears, scarred sides, and any other unique markings are dead giveaways that a certain buck is back or not. So, zoom in on those trail cam photos and analyze.
Unless disturbed, early-season bucks will do the same thing nearly every day. Furthermore, they will likely summer in the same location if nothing prompts them to choose a new home. Compare late-summer and early-season patterns to those of past years to see if it's the same buck or a new deer.