various deer antlers

Types of Deer and How To Tell The Difference

You’re driving down the road when you see a deer in headlights… But, what kind of deer is it? After all, there’s more to deer than just antlers.

Otherwise known as Cervidae, the deer family is pretty broad. In fact, there are 43 species of deer.

But with members ranging from whitetail, elk, reindeer, red deer, and every dear deer in-between, how are you supposed to tell the difference?

Let’s explore the fundamental differences between 9 of the types of deer you’re likely to either encounter or hear about.

1. Whitetail Deer

whitetail buck in velvet

The whitetail is one of the most sought after deer by hunters in North America.

This medium-sized mammal is native to the Americas, weighing in at anywhere from under 100 lbs to over 300 lbs.

Doe (female deer) can weigh anywhere between under 100 lbs to 200 lbs.

White-tailed deer can sometimes be challenging to identify at first glance, as their coats change color seasonally. They can be found with reddish-brown coats under the summer sun, trading these in for more grayish-brown substitutes as winter closes in.

The white-tailed deer, usually referred to simply as the whitetail, earned its name thanks to the prominent white marking under its tail. (If a whitetail deer has piebaldism, it can lead to some unique and stunning markings.)

While the whitetail’s tail is primarily used to warn fellow deer when danger is near, this white marking also helps explorers and hunters distinguish the whitetail from other deer.


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This particular deer is also unique in terms of body language. Whitetails are known to showcase various postures, including the “ear drop” to send other deer away, the “hard look” to show anger, the “antler threat” to display dominance, and the fighting stance to prepare for battle, so to speak.

During the breeding season, or “rut,” bucks (males) can often be found making violent antler contact, testing each other’s strength for the right to breed receptive does. This battle normally ends when one deer is too tired to continue but can also end in the death of one or both bucks.

Sometimes when fighting, bucks can get their antlers entangled with each other, unable to break apart. In these instances, bucks can even die if they cannot get separated.

Whitetail deer are a highly sought after game animal by rifle hunters as well as bowhunters.

2. Blacktail Deer

blacktail bucks in field

Blacktail deer have distinctive black tail with a white patch underneath.

Normally found across the hills of Central California and the mountainous region of Alaska, the Columbian black-tailed deer is a sub-species of the mule deer.

The blacktail is slightly smaller than most mule deer or his white-tailed cousin, though. Like white-tailed deer, blacktail also change their coat colors, from a reddish-brown in summer to a brownish-gray in winter.



Blacktail are normally easy to spot by their ears, which move independently. This particular deer’s broad tail is totally black or dark brown at the top, with a white patch underneath.

This would make him easy to confuse with the white-tail, were it not for his distinctive dark brown antlers with symmetrical branching and easily-identifiable stocky bodies with long, slender legs.

Black-tailed deer weigh in at about 130 pounds, but can reach closer to 200. While blacktail males have antlers, their female counterparts do not – and male fawns start growing antlers at about 6-8 months old.

Blacktail can normally be found in forested mountains on the pacific coast, where the climate is mild and cool with plenty of rainfall. Blacktail live off a diet of acorns, fungi, lichen, nuts, berries, and shrubs

coues deer buck

Coues deer bucks have main beams that curve forward.

3. Coues Deer

This specific kind of white-tailed deer is among the most commonly found across the South-Eastern mountains of Arizona, especially during the rainy summertime.

Coues can be found in woodlands where there is plenty of oak, chaparral, and pine.

Coues deer are known for their distinctive antlers. The coues’ mean beam curves forward, and more mature coues have 3-4 tines on each side.

When it comes to coat, the coues is normally grayish-brown with specks of “salt and pepper,” and white patches underneath. The coues’ most distinguishing trait is his long and broad tail, which is grayish-red-black on top and white underneath.

Coues deer are normally quite small, and fawns are known to stay close to their mothers for longer than other deer.



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4. Mule Deer

mule deer bucks in field

Mule deer bucks have distinctive white patches on the backs of their hips and males have forked antlers.

Mule deer are commonly spotted in deserts across North and South America, flaunting large ears that first granted them their name.

The mule deer’s tail appears to have been dipped in black ink, and his antlers are forked.

You’ll also find a distinctive white patch on either hind side, which easily differentiates the mule deer from any other deer in America. The mule deer sports a grayish-brown coat, making it easier for him to adapt to his unique climate in desert areas.

Mule deer, often referred to as muleys, normally range from about 3 feet tall at the shoulders to a towering 7 feet (including antlers), weighing up to 280 pounds.

In addition to the whitetail, the mule deer is also one of the types of deer sought after by hunters.



5. Red Deer

These large land mammals (Britain’s largest, in fact) can weigh anywhere from 90 kg to 190 kg (around 100 to 225 lbs). They stand up to 1.37 meters (4-1/2 ft) tall at the shoulder, and can normally be found in wooded lowland areas.

red stag

A male red deer is called a “stag.” The stag’s antlers are branched.

But, the part of this deer’s anatomy that sets it apart from other deer so distinctly, is its noticeably large head and wide-spaced brown eyes.

A male red deer is called a stag. His antlers are perhaps his most distinctive feature – highly branched with multiple points on each.

The red deer’s antler branches increase with age at an angle.

Another unmistakable trait of the red deer are its hoof prints, otherwise known as “slots.” These are often mistaken for sheep or goat’s marks.

Red deer are mostly found in forest habitats across England and Southern Scotland, and graze on grass and dwarf shrubs. They generally breed from the end of September to November.


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6. Chital / Axis Deer

The Chital Deer, otherwise known as the axis deer, boasts unique characteristics that set it apart – one of which is the white spots that never go away. These speckled dots stay in place from youth through to adulthood, normally covering the entire body and spanning down the legs too. These spots make the axis deer one of the most easily recognized types of deer.

axis deer in a field

Axis deer have spots resembling those of a whitetail fawn, but they do not go away as they mature as the whitetail do.

The Chital Deer also has a rather long muzzle topped off with a dark black nose.

The axis deer normally weighs anywhere from 60 pounds to 170 pounds, depending on the region and habitat.

An interesting feature of male axis deer are their antlers, which normally have six points. However, more dominant bucks are found with more than this, making them significant trophies.

The axis deer were introduced in the United States in the 1930’s. The state of Texas has the highest population of axis deer in the U.S.

The axis deer is normally found living in secondary land areas, around glades where there is plenty to eat. The axis deer’s hoof shape prevents them from walking well on rugged terrain. So, they tend to avoid these types of areas.

The axis deer tend to be more social than other types of deer.


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7. Elk

bull elk bugling with cow elk

The elk was nearly killed off by early U.S. settlers, but now thrive, especially in the Western United States.

This member of the deer family is found primarily in the Western United States and Southern Canada.

The elk’s history is complex, with most being killed by Western U.S. settlers by the early 1900’s. The sole survivors were found mostly in the region just west of the Rocky Mountains.

Thankfully, reintroduction efforts were successful, and the elk can be found in many areas today – towering tall at 4-5 feet high at the shoulder. Some even reach up to 9 feet or higher, counting antler height.



You can spot an Elk from a distance, with a copper brown coat. This can change to light tan during the Fall and Winter months.

Elk are also easily noticeable by their rump patch, and short light-brown tail. Elk can be found feeding on all types of plants, mostly grass. Although, elk also enjoy twigs, forbs, fir, juniper, aspen, and chokeberry. They also love shrubs, particularly during the cold winter months.

Elk predators include cougars, wolves, coyotes, and bears, which often kill calves and sick adults.

reindeer

Reindeer spend much of the deer grazing.

8. Reindeer

This Christmas “legend” is actually a real deer. The male reindeer is unique among the rest, easily identifiable mainly by its antlers.

Other distinctive characteristics include his broad hooves, wide muzzle, and extra-thick brown fur.

These majestic creatures are a medium-sized member of the deer family, found across forests, mountains, and arctic tundra in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Northern China.

Reindeer normally travel in massive herds and live in the wild for about a decade.

More domesticated reindeer are herded by Asian Artic and European peoples.

Reindeer are herbivores, and spend most of the day grazing. During the cold winter months, Reindeer can be found grazing on moss and lichens, leaves and herbs.



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9. Vampire Deer (Musk Deer)

musk deer

The musk deer, or “vampire deer,” has long fangs, but no antlers.

Otherwise known as musk deer, these “vampires” are actually quite shy and prone to voluntary solitary confinement.

These gentle, nocturnal creatures differ from other cervids, due to their lack of antlers and facial glands. They earned their name through their distinctive sharp vampire-like “fangs.” The over-sized canine teeth are impossible to miss.

vampire deer skull

Vampire deer skulls are instantly noticeable due to their fanged teeth.



Take note of his over-sized ears, exceptionally short tail, and lack of antlers. Traits like these make the vampire deer one of the easiest kinds to spot. His coat is grayish-brown, and his hair long and brittle.

While their name and long fangs might scare you off, this unique Asian deer is actually harmless. You’ll normally find him in mountainous regions, like the Himalayas or Siberia.

deer jumping fence

Torn Britches, Fence Posts and Deer Intel: Scouting Fence Lines

By Jerald Kopp

I consider myself a 365 hunter. That means, among other things, that I do a lot of scouting during the off-season. This goes for familiar and new hunting properties alike and it’s always paid dividends. In my mind, it matters.

Shortly after the whitetail season, I carefully seek new buck bedding areas and check known ones. Likewise, I look for new trails. Sure, there are those known heavy paths that deer traditionally travel on properties. However, it’s always common for new ones to surface. It’s the new ones that need learning on an ongoing basis.

property fence line

When it comes to deer hunting, fence lines do far more than simply mark property boundaries. They could hold valuable insight into deer travel patterns.

You don’t need deer sign to shoot a buck? I disagree. Sure, you can study aerial property views and hunting apps, but there is no substitute for putting your eyeballs on the hard facts.

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Remote Control

Whether a 20-acre micro-property or a ten thousand-acre hunting mecca, the reflex action is often to seek and study heavy timber, thick creek basins, and ag field-hugging woodlots. And often these places are in the thick of things. That is, in the middle of the ranch and in hard to reach places.

This is, where the mature bucks are. These have to be the honey holes, right? There is certainly a mystique about these remote deer havens.

Though hunters differ in how much they are willing to pressure these areas, most will walk them; or at least areas adjacent to them. It’s in these sections where trails, rub lines, scrapes and bedding areas are discovered or confirmed.


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Optimal Setups Determined

Finding these heavily visited and traveled areas leads to deer stand location strategies. Most of us already know this. It’s no shocker that we often see old rotted boards within and atop old trees next to heavy game trails.

Whitetails, especially bucks, tend to follow the path of least resistance. And, unless you hunt an extremely large property, free-range deer commonly cross food sources, draws, and fence lines. The latter seemingly is often ignored. So…



Don’t Ignore Fence Lines

It seems that we often fail to see the elephant in the room – or in the case of deer scouting, the worn dirt found through property boundaries. Whether because we think we already know all the crossings or it just doesn’t cross our minds, it’s too valuable a piece of intel to overlook. These days, on regular and known grounds, I annually walk the fence lines for travel sign.

Whitetails create new routes all the time and, for that matter, can disregard old ones. The latter can happen for a variety of reasons such as new hunter pressure. In fact, I recently walked the boundaries of my latest property (in June) and found two new trails; and one of them lead directly to a bedding area not 150-yards from one of my tree stands.

Score!

It’s for this reason that it’s a great idea to follow through by following such trails as far as you can (or they remain noticeable). Similarly, you can often reverse things and follow interior trails to fence line crossings.

deer trail near fence line

Don’t ignore scouting fence lines on your hunting property for deer travel sign. These fence lines often provide a funnel where deer move along as well as cross to get to and from food sources and bedding areas.

Finally, once the fence line funnel has been identified, set up 200-300 yards away, watch, and verify. Physically witnessing early morning and late evening deer movement through these paths is bowhunter gold.

The only step left at this point is to find a logical location closer to the action. In fact, the early season is a great time to cash in on fence line paths. During this stage, some whitetails are still in their more predictable patterns. There are also still some bachelor groups around.


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Why Did the Buck Cross the Fence?

I can’t think of a punchline, so here goes…

There are various reasons why fence line recon is valuable. Obviously, if there are food and nutrient sources across properties, deer will regularly traverse accordingly. This is common in free-range areas.

Did you ever notice that you see a lot of rubs and scrapes along fence lines? I have. The fact is that even in more open country, fence lines have structure. Trees and other brush typically grow there. Birds drop seeds there and so on.



It’s sweet edge structure.

Maybe the real question is, other than seeking what’s on the other side, why do whitetails like fence lines?

Deer are naturally edge creatures, hence, preferring edge cover. This is, for example, common in parts of Texas where structure is a logical threshold from which to hit crops or the next brushy section. It’s deemed a safe transition area.



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The Property Line Maestro

Among other things, this all means that, as hunters, we can capitalize on existing cross-property travel patterns.

But what If no natural fence line funnels exist? Simple, create one.

Here we have a chance to do a little behavior modification. Specifically, use the mini woodlots and strips of cover along property boundaries to lead deer to routes favorable to us as hunters. For example, direct them toward grain field edges, small openings, or even open country.

Do some selective brush cutting along the fence. Better yet, lower the fence itself by loosening the top wire and attach it to the next lower one. Cable ties or pieces of wire work well for this. Remember, the path of least resistance. Utilizing these methods may be what it takes to get deer making tracks where you want them to go.



The Blind Has to Go Here

We know it when we see it. You know, the pocket of brush just inside of a shadowy oak canopy or a natural spot within a clump of cedars. Plus, in smaller woodlots such as these, there are often few choices for blind placement.

For bowhunters, in particular, this allows us to lead whitetails within range of where we want to sit. Also, note that this tactic is particularly effective during early season when some deer (even some bachelor groups) are in their more predictable summer patterns.

Hunting Etiquette and Backpedaling

A couple of qualifiers; First off, this article was written primarily with bowhunting in mind. Secondly, I don’t condone baiting property lines (even where legal). In such states, I don’t even condone placing game feeders within sight of the fence.

At least in my case, scouting and modifying edge structure takes place on cross-fencing within properties, as well as true property boundaries. For the latter, tread lightly and with courtesy.

I can’t define the parameters around property boundary hunting etiquette. There a lot of different ideas out there. In Texas, I was always told that it was bad hunting manners to place a blind within 100 yards of the fence. Admittedly, the vast majority of these hunters were gun hunters.

Obviously, hunting property boundaries is a volatile topic – and for good reason. Hunters have an age-old tradition of preserving acceptable behavior in the woods, and I’m not suggesting anyone should violate it. This tactic has little to do with hunting fence lines. However, it has everything to do with scouting, as well as modifying and capitalizing on whitetail travel patterns.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of torn jeans and shirts at the hands of barb-wire fences and the brush around them. As a whitetail hunter, I think it’s been well worth it. If you haven’t already done so, walk the perimeter and develop a plan of action. It just may pay big dividends this deer season.

jerald kopp of first light hunting journal
Jerald Kopp, of 1st Light Hunting Journal and Empowerment Outfitters
hunters blend coffee and deer antler

Coffee As Gear | How Hunter’s Blend Supports Hunting

-By Paul Kurtz

Hunting and the outdoor activities that we enjoy contribute to the quality of our lives. Hunters tend to look for gear that contributes to this quality, such as more comfortable and technical clothing, highly effective ammo and brighter, clearer optics, just to name a few. These tools enhance our times in the field.

And that brings me to coffee… So, what does coffee have to do with hunting?

coffee over campfire

Coffee makes the world go ’round. So, we thought it should make hunting go ’round too!

Coffee’s place in the outdoors

I love hunting, backpacking… and coffee. And, I go to great lengths to make certain I’ve got great tasting coffee with me in all my outings. It takes some thought and preparedness, but is important to me. I’ve talked to a lot of other outdoors people and they feel the same.

The reality is that coffee is one of those essential items found in every deer camp, in every camper, and in every pack.



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In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, coffee was part of the tradition of “opening morning” deer hunting in our house. I can still hear my brother say, “first one up, put the coffee on!”

My uncle Owen, my hunting hero, was a coffee drinker as well. He had a cup in his hand all day long. He was a contractor and coffee was his “go juice” on the job. But, that transferred to the field as well.



In fact, as I’ve met and talked to many hunters over the years — elderly and young alike, they look to coffee to help them wake up and get out to the stand.

The same goes for many waterfowl hunters, turkey hunters and outfitters.


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So, I make this bold proclamation: Coffee makes the hunting world go ’round!

With that being said, something still baffles me.

If coffee is such a “must have” item when it comes to the outdoors, why is there not more planning and thought put into it?

What is your coffee brand supporting?

Many of us just grab whatever the grocery store has or what’s in our cupboard and not give it another thought.

But… what if the coffee you were drinking on your trips afield was actually working to restrict your right to hunt?

coffee pot pouring hunters blend

Coffee is an integral part of camping and game hunting. Hunter’s Blend coffee supports those activities and fights for their longevity.

What if profits from your coffee purchase were being donated to extreme left organizations that are flooding the courts with proposed legislation to ban hunting… or at least nibble around the edges of our freedoms? It is very possible and it is likely.



Hunter’s Blend Coffee | In the beginning…

At the publishing of this article, I have been in the specialty coffee trade for the past 17 years. I’ve seen the underbelly of coffee importers, brokers and west coast trendsetters in this industry. Most green coffee comes in through the west coast; cities like Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco. The shareholders of these coffee traders and roasting companies more than likely do not share our values and our hunting heritage.

I started roasting coffee in 2002 and have worked hard at becoming a licensed Q-Grader.


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The reason for starting Hunter’s Blend was simple: We wanted to bring hunter-friendly coffee to the market, assuring that the complete chain-of-custody of coffee supported the hunting lifestyle.

But, learning to taste coffee as well as identify and describe what is being tasted is only one part. The other has to do with manipulating the roasting process and rate of rise of bean temperature to get all the quality (sweetness, aroma) out of a coffee that it has to give.

It really is a blend of art and science.



Over the past 10 years I have seen the American palate change from “hot and black” to really desiring craft roasted coffee… even amongst our hunting ranks.

Until recently, there was no choice for these discerning coffee drinkers, other than buying coffee from suppliers that were not forthcoming in how the bean was sourced and what values they, as a company, embrace.

Now there is.

Two years ago, along with my two brother-in-laws (Mike Swartzentruber and Ken Beachy), we started Hunter’s Blend Coffee.



Supporting Farmers And Communities

In order to do this, we import our green coffee directly from the coffee grower (farms like El Dorado, owned by coffee farmer Diego Chavarria, in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and Pat in the mountains around Chang Rai, Thailand (Doi Chang Village). These coffees are expertly roasted and blended to create the Hunter’s Blend Coffee products.

paul kurtz with coffee farmers

Buying beans directly from the growers has helped Hunter’s Blend give back to communities where the coffee is harvested.

By going directly to the farms, we can eliminate up to six middle buyers and pay these farmers literally twice the amount they would otherwise receive on the local market.

This fair pay for a passionately grown, top quality product, enables these farmers to keep their employees working year-round. This create jobs, which in turn eliminates poverty and economically lifts entire communities.


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Community growth via coffee

In northern Thailand, among the Ahka tribe, we have seen an entire community flourish. Where once was there extreme poverty, no schools and societal abuse, there is now a community that has totally changed… all because of coffee jobs.

Over 80 women hand sort our coffee each year, many whom were caught up in the sex trafficking industry. When they heard that there were jobs in their village, they made their way home. When you walk in the village these days, it is ringing with laughter of children and ladies singing… a thriving community.



Supporting your right to hunt

Hunter’s Blend Coffee also gives back to conservation groups within our industry.

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Whitetails Unlimited (WU), and Sportsmen’s Alliance (SA) to name a few. These groups work tirelessly to fulfill their missions.

The one that stands out to me is the Sportsman’s Alliance. SA is working in the legal battles of keeping our hunting heritage alive. The habitat and animal population oriented groups are doing great work, but what good is habitat and wildlife numbers if you can’t hunt!



SA in particular, watches for proposed legislation that attacks fringe activity, such as coyote hunting contests, which, on its face, is no big deal. Most of us don’t compete in these contests, so we tune it out.

But once these restrictions pass, the activists become emboldened and immediately go for other battles against regional hunting practices such as hunting bears over bait, or using hounds to hunt mountain lions or bears, etc.

The activists approach is like a constrictor, with each battle won, increasing restriction over our hunting freedoms, with the ultimate goal of eliminating hunting all together.





Anti-Hunting Activists

No organization has done more to erode our freedoms than the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is not the same as your local animal shelter.

HSUS raises funds by using the disguise of helping to end cat and dog cruelty, when in fact, less than 1% of their money goes to local animal shelters. The vast majority of HSUS money goes to fund nationwide legal battles to end hunting of all kinds.



I have no doubt that some of the earnings of coffee importers and roasters are funding HSUS, to our demise! 

Hunter’s Blend Coffee is defending hunting, one cup at a time. It is coffee for hunters, by hunters.

As a bow hunter and rifleman myself, I know the joy of opening a thermos of coffee in my blind on a freezing cold, pre-dawn morning, while waiting for first light. The aroma and the warmth all combine into a lingering memory.

When it’s time to plan my next outing, there will be that desire to bring that “cup of joy” into the hunt again. And it will be coffee that is a part of my gear.

paul kurtz with black bear
Paul Kurtz of Hunter’s Blend Coffee.