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Whitetail Tracking Tips

Whitetail Tracking Tips From Lanny Benoit


Lanny Benoit is thought by many to be the best whitetail hunter alive today.

This is excerpted from the book, Benoit Bucks.  Signed copies are available at

“There is one way to tell a young buck, even one with big feet and maybe even a big deer that’s young. A young buck has never had much for antlers and he is used to dipping under branches without getting them tangled. When they are fawns, they are used to scooting under branches and stuff and it takes a while to get out of that habit. But, an old buck, one that’s had big antlers for a few years, won’t go under any branches he doesn’t have to. He is also more interested in walking in a straight line and not fooling around. He won’t be zigzagging around and wasting time like a young buck that still has a little ‘kid’ in him.

“Also, a big old buck has been walking these woods for a long time and he is not going to work any harder than he needs to. He knows all the best and easiest routes around and that’s what he is going to take.

“A lot of times those old bucks have nothing to do but sleep, eat and wander around. He may walk around all day, but he also won’t use any more energy than necessary and he will always take the easiest route.”

2“One of the mistakes that people make when tracking is they go too slowly when they are close and give the deer time to get nervous. If he knows you are after him and maybe has seen you, it’s better to keep moving at a fast pace. If you slow down, the deer has too much time to think about it and if he knows you are there, he will probably decide to run. If you move fast enough, he may wait to see you and if you step into the right opening, you may get a shot.

“The death creep is only good if the deer doesn’t know you are there. It’s meant to surprise a buck that isn’t aware of you. But if that deer has already heard you coming, you won’t get him with the death creep. If he is 100 yards or 200 yards away and he has heard you going into the death creep and trying to sneak up on him, it won’t work. You are better off to keep going along at a fast pace. Sure, he will run off most times, but sooner or later, you will see him.

“It’s like when you are driving down the road. Those deer can hear you coming for a long time before they see the truck, but a lot of times they wait until they see you or even until you stop before they run away. It’s the same when you are tracking bucks. They are going to hear you, but if you just keep going, they may wait long enough for a shot. Going into the death creep in this situation is a lot like stopping the truck. It’s a change and to them, that signifies danger.

“When there are noisy hunting conditions, you are better off to move right along at a good pace. The deer are usually going to hear you anyway. I have had lots of bucks I didn’t want to shoot stand and watch me walk on by them. As long as you don’t make eye contact and they don’t realize you have seen them, a lot of times they will stand still and let you walk by.

“I know it sounds crazy, but probably 85 percent of the bucks I have shot, I just walked up and shot them. The key is in seeing the buck. You have to be watching for the deer. You can’t keep your eyes down on the ground looking at the track.

“Those old bucks are kind of cranky anyway, particularly when they are in the rut. Just because they can hear you doesn’t necessarily mean that they know you are a man. They might just think you are a rival buck and they will stick around to kick your butt or try to intimidate you.

3“One thing is that when you do see him, you have to make up your mind quick and shoot him. The minute you stop to shoot, the buck is going to go into high alert. You can’t fool around and if you are sure it’s the buck you want, shoot him. You can’t try to judge his antlers to see if he is big enough. You simply don’t have time. You need to shoot him and hope his antlers are as good as you expected they might be from the sign along the track. Also, shoot at what you can see. Don’t look around or wait around for a better shot, because chances are you won’t get one.”

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MO Conservation

Deer Victim of Hemorrhagic Disease

Deer Victim of Hemorrhagic Disease
Nate Mechlin


In Missouri, deer and elk may be infected.


Single or multiple dead deer may be found in late summer or early fall near water sources with no apparent disease symptoms.

Clinical signs in deer are variable but may include unwillingness to move, difficulty breathing, swelling of the head, neck, or tongue, lameness, and weight loss. Most deer die quickly from the disease and therefore have no obvious clinical signs.

HD is not directly contagious between infected animals.


No. Hemorrhagic disease is not known to infect people.

How bad can it get?

There is no known risk to humans.

Symptoms in humans

None. Humans are not at risk.


  • The viruses that cause HD do not infect people.
  • There is no risk from handling or eating meat from deer with HD.
  • HD may weaken the animal’s immune system, allowing secondary bacterial infections to develop in the sick animal and make the meat unsuitable for consumption.


Yes. Meat is generally safe for pets to consume, if no secondary bacterial infections are present and meat is cooked properly.


Biting midge flies in the genus Culicoides spread the viruses that cause the disease.

In North America, there are two viruses that cause HD: epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and bluetongue virus (BTV).

Different strains (subtypes) of these viruses exist, with varying levels of virulence.

Livestock, such as cattle and sheep, may be infected with the HD viruses. Clinical signs vary with the species. Consult your veterinarian for more information on HD in livestock.

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Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease
Mike Hopper, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a deadly illness in white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family. CWD kills all deer it infects. The disease has been found in Missouri and is slowly spreading. The Missouri Department of Conservation is working with conservation partners to find cases and limit its spread.


  • Hunters who harvest deer in 25 select counties must present their deer to MDC staff for CWD sampling.
  • Mandatory sampling is only required during opening weekend of firearms deer season, Nov. 11 and 12.
  • MDC will provide 56 sampling stations throughout the 25 select counties.
  • Sampling locations will be open 7:30 a.m. until at least 8 p.m.
  • Deer must be presented by the hunter who harvested the animal.
  • Deer may be field dressed before being taken to a sampling station.
  • Hunters can also present just the deer head with about six inches of neck attached.
  • For taxidermy bucks, the cape may be removed prior to being taken to a sampling station as long as about six inches of the neck is left attached.
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By (Shooting Time)

The tarsal glands on a whitetail deer secrete a powerful identifying odor used by deer all year. Deer unfamiliar with each other will sniff each others tarsal glands to get to know one another. Their powerful 300 million nasal scent receptors store this information in their brain which can recall it in the future for identifying purposes.

Tarsal glands tell important factors like sex, age, health and dominance. The hairs on the tarsal gland are very dense and limit the amount of scent they release. The very strong pheromone containing scent is released when a deer urinates on their glands (rub-urinates) or when a deer enters a fight or flight mood swing. The most dominant whitetail bucks will have darker tarsal glands.

tarsal glands

Using tarsal glands as an attractant

Tarsal glands can be used all year as an attractant because they peak a deer’s curiosity. Tarsals will bring in deer of any shape and size but if used properly, they could entice that trophy of a lifetime to walk within range of your stand.

Doe tarsals will attract other does and bucks all season. Remember, its the real thing and when someone new is in their house, their curiosity will lure them in. During the rut phases, the tarsal glands of bucks, mixed with or without tarsal glands of does, can do wonders.

While pursuing bucks who are establishing dominancy, use a smaller less dominant bucks tarsal glands to lure in the king of the block. If you obtain a local dominant buck’s tarsal glands and use them in his home area, this may backfire and scare off other challenging buck who knew who he was. I mean, who would go out of their way to go a round or two with Mike Tyson!

If you can acquire a dominant buck’s tarsal glands from another area though then you are in business. The local dominant buck will pick up the strong odor, instantly know there’s a challenger, and come to the scent to settle the score. Success!!

Removing a deer’s tarsal glands

The quicker you can take a harvested deer’s tarsal glands and get them to the refrigerator or freezer the better off you will be. There are bacteria in a deer’s tarsal gland which is proven to cause illnesses in humans so use rubber gloves while handling tarsal glands. With a sharp knife, skin around the gland and remove the entire gland before field dressing. Take the tarsal glands, put them in a zip lock bag, mark it with the deer’s information (sex, estimated age, dominance level) and store it in the freezer or refrigerator.

tarsal glands deer hunting

It is normally good practice to use the tarsal glands when the weather is cooler. The glands will spoil, so after use, they should be put back in their bag and back into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. To prevent spoiling, when thawing out frozen tarsal glands, thaw them out in a refrigerator.

The tarsal glands will typically last for a couple weeks with the right care. Use your nose to determine if they are past due or not. If the tarsal glands dry up, dip them quickly in water to bring their moisture level back up.

How to use the tarsal glands in the field

There are two methods that we will describe for using the tarsal glands in the field. They can be used individually or together to create the environment the hunter requires. One method is hanging the actual tarsal gland in a tree and the other method is using the “tarsal juice.”

Hanging the tarsal gland in a tree

The tarsal gland on a deer is normally only 12-18 inches off the ground so that is the most logical place to put it. Wedge the tarsal gland in the crotch of a sapling or branch. If one isn’t present at that level you can put it higher. Just as long as the wind can hit it. Try to install it so the scent will carried by a cross wind to the deer’s anticipated location. This can get tricky; you want the deer to smell the tarsal glands, not you, so choose a location wisely.

*Just a reminder – Never leave your tarsal glands or any scents in the field while you are not hunting. This is a bad practice and only educates deer.

Using “tarsal juice”

To make and use tarsal juice, you will need the following:

– scissors
– 6-8 ounces of bottled water
– a small spray bottle
– a fine strainer or coffee filter

1. Take the scissors and cut and keep the tarsal glands fine dense hair. If you have a really sharp knife, you can “shave” the hair off as well.

tarsal gland hairtarsal deer hair

2. Warm up (not too hot, slightly above luke warm) the 6-8 ounces of bottled water.

3. Put the tarsal hair into the warm water for 30 minutes. The water will draw the oils from the tarsal hair.

tarsal juice

4. Pour the mixture through a strainer or coffee filter and bottle the fresh “tarsal juice.”

tarsal juice filter

5. Pour the tarsal gland juice into a spray bottle. You should be able to fill up two 2 ounce spray bottles and still have 3-4 ounces left over. With the left over juice we advise freezing it in a breast milk freezer bag. Mark the date you made the juice and what kind of deer it was on the containers.

deer tarsal juicedeer hunting tarsal juice freezer bag

The tarsal juice and be used a variety ways in the field. It can be used on a drag rag, on a scent wick, sprayed onto licking branches, sprayed onto scrapes, or just misted into the air when the time is right. Our favorite dispenser is a 2 ounce spray bottle found at many local convenience stores