deer hoof print next to mans hand

Deer Hooves… More Than Meets The Eye

As a hunter, it’s always nice to see deer tracks.

At least you know you have deer in the area. But deer hooves do much more than just leave a “deer was here” signature in the dirt.

Hooves make just about everything a deer does possible and easier.

Deer hooves are made up of keratin, which is the same thing human finger nails are made of.

deer hoof print and dew claw

Deer front hoof and dew claws

The hooves consist of two divided, or cloven, elongated toes.

Each deer hoof has two “dew claws” (see picture), located above and behind it.

Mammals such as gazelles, sheep, hogs, cattle and goats also have cloven hooves.

A deer’s dew claws typically will not show as part of its track, unless the deer is travelling through mud or snow.

In these conditions, the dew claws give the deer’s foot a larger and wider platform with which to move about.

Hooves are one of the most important parts of deer’s body and are useful for many purposes. So, let’s take a look at 5 ways in which deer use their hooves…

A deer’s hooves are cloven, or split, and are made up of keratin, much like human fingernails.


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Deer will use their hooves for:

Running And Jumping

Deer obviously run and jump using their legs. But, while powerful hind leg muscles account for much of a deer’s ability to run and jump, hooves play a vital role as well.

A deer’s front cloven hoof helps it to turn sharply and push off when jumping.

So, whether deer are running up to 40 miles per hour to evade predators, chasing during the rut, or jumping in excess of eight feet in the air, they couldn’t do it without their hooves.



The keratin in deer hooves is sheeted and runs in all directions.

This results in hooves that are stronger, harder and more crack resistant than bone, making them durable enough to support the animal’s weight, even when it is running or jumping with force.

When deer run, the toenails on the front of the hooves allow it to reduce the area of the foot that touches the ground, resulting in a longer stride that allows it to cover more ground.



Hoof Stamping (Stomping)

If you’re a hunter, you have probably experienced the ‘ole “foot stomp.” It usually goes something like this… You’re watching from a tree stand or a permanent blind when a deer sees your shape or movement, or gets wind of your scent. It senses the danger and stops abruptly, curls up a front leg and starts stamping its hoof.

Deer do this to either confirm the apparent danger or become comfortable that there is actually no threat. Sometimes the deer will flee, but hopefully for the hunter, the animal will eventually settle down and continue browsing or travelling in a manner that allows an ethical shot.

deer stomping foof

Deer will stomp their hooves to try and cause movement from perceived danger.


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Defense

It’s not uncommon, especially in suburban areas, for people to mistake deer for defenseless animals. But don’t let their majestic appearance and graceful movements fool you.

In addition to hunters, deer have other natural predators. These can include wolves, coyotes bobcats, and sometimes even bears and alligators.

When a predator threatens or attacks, a deer can either run or fight. Bucks often use their antlers to defend themselves, but just like does, can rise up on their hind legs, using their hooves to strike predators. They can also kick from behind, using the hind legs and hooves, if necessary.

Deer hooves do more than just leave tracks. They can be used by a deer to help defend itself against predators and perceived danger.

Deer Scraping

For hunters, the rut is a magical time of year. It’s that time when many hunters dream about that deer of a lifetime walking into view. Bucks are rubbing trees, using licking branches, and making “scrapes.”

In addition to hooves giving a buck the ability to chase does back and forth at high speeds, they also play a key part in the deer scraping activities.

Bucks and does alike will visit and use scrapes, but during the rut, bucks scrape more aggressively and will use the scrapes to announce their presence in the area as well as to tell other bucks to stay out of it.



Bucks will make “scrape lines” along travel routes and as they move through their territory. These can show up along field edges, fence lines and between feeding and bedding areas.

Bucks will paw and clear (scrape) an area to be free of leaves and debris. They will urinate in the scrape to leave their scent, effectively marking their territory. In addition, they will lick and chew overhanging branches, leaving forehead scent as well.

Does will also visit and use these scrapes, allowing bucks, upon a revisiting of the scrape, to know if a doe is ready to be bred.

As you can see in this video (sound up), whitetail bucks will make “scrapes” on the ground with their hooves and urinate in them. They will typically make these scrapes under a “licking branch,” where they will chew and rub their forehead, leaving scent.

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Interdigital Scent

Deer have interdigital scent glands in between the two hooves on each leg and one of the most important glands the animals have. Deer use the scent dispersed from these glands to track one another.

The interdigital glands are small, sparsely-haired sac located between the hooves on each foot. The sacs contain a yellowish material called sebum. The scent is left in a deer’s track every time it takes a step.

fawn hoof print next to human finger

Fawn tracks are much smaller than full-grown deer tracks. The size of a fawn hoof print compared to human thumb



Whitetail Deer Hooves Vs. Mule Deer Hooves

Whitetail deer and mule deer have many discernable differences in appearance and movement. Both have a unique antler structure.

Mule deer utilize a bouncing gait, known as a pronk or stot. The whitetail do not utilize this type of gait, but rather tend to run and leap when fleeing danger.

While whitetails and muleys may have their differences, hoof structure and tracks are nearly impossible to differentiate. Both whitetail and mule deer have two hooves that form and upside-down heart-shape on the ground with the rounded bottom.



The side of the hooves are convex, while the tips of its hooves are located towards the inside of the track. The outside of the toe is usually slightly larger than the inside toe while the hind feet are smaller than the front feet.

Without other non-hoof signs, distinguishing between whitetail deer and mule deer is nearly impossible.



Hunt The Deer Tracks?

Hopefully, we’ve been able to provide you with a useful overview of how deer use their hooves. Here’s one final thought… those deer tracks you find will only tell you where the deer have been. Here’s to hoping you find out where they end! Happy hunting!



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case knife buck story pic

Pockets… Always Carry A Case Knife N1 | How a pocket knife led to a trophy

Thanksgiving morning of 2016 will be one I will always remember. I sat quietly in my climber that morning overlooking the creek bottom that runs through the property. The sun came up and the thick fog that engulfed the hardwoods slowly lifted.

It was a quiet and beautiful morning, and I felt blessed to be in the woods as the sun started hitting the forest floor. I had a case knife in my pocket… but more on that later.

There is not, and never has been for me, something as serene as sitting N1 of God’s carefully prepared landscapes, watching the sun rise and fall over you as the world awakens or quietly falls asleep.



It is those times that I am reminded that no matter what is going on in the hustle and bustle that seems wrong, the sun is still going to come up, and the oaks will still drop their acorns the next day. In other words, nature doesn’t know of the hardships or blessings you may be experiencing.

It just is, and it just does, exactly as it was told to do by God. That has always been reason enough for me to escape to the woods.

But, this morning in particular would prove to be one of even greater blessing. I was in the woods, with a Case knife in my pocket. So, here is where the story gets good…



When the fog lifts and the breakfast hits

At roughly 7:30 that morning the fog had finally lifted enough to have decent visibility. The animals around me had started their daily routines. I decided that I would rattle a couple minutes, in about 20-second intervals.

For whatever reason, I like to grunt once or twice in between the rattle sequences. So that’s what I did, I rattled about 20 seconds and then waited about 20 seconds and then rattled again, so on and so forth. I did that for two minutes while hitting my grunt four or five times.



When I was satisfied that I had the attention of any buck around me, I quit and waited about 2 minutes and then I hit my doe bleat. In my head, that is when things get serious. If I was a buck I would be thinking, not only are two unknown bucks sparring on my property, they have a doe ready and willing with them. That’s my train of thought anyway. So, I put my calls down and waited.



That’s when it hit me. The sausage biscuit I had eaten an hour earlier had to have a final resting place… and it needed to get there in a hurry.

I climbed down the tree and walked off about 20 yards and did the deed. I quickly realized that if I didn’t have a napkin in my pocket, then I was going to be leaving with one wool sock less than what I had arrived with!  On a 37-degree morning, with wet boots, that didn’t seem like a good idea!


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Case knife life saver

Well, what’s a guy to do in such a predicament?  I did the only thing I could think of… I pulled out my trusty Case knife and cut a square out of the front left leg of my flannel boxer shorts and my problem was solved.

Always carry a case pocket knife N1 of your pockets when you go to the woods; you never know how useful it can be!

>> Take a look at the top deer skinning knife here if you’re looking for something that’ll make the skinning process easy!

Big buck moment

I made my way up the tree and sat there thinking I had ruined my hunt. I thought about getting down but I thought to myself, nah, I’m here now, I may as well keep hunting. My Dad always said, “you can’t kill’em at home.”

Well, It hadn’t been 10 minutes since I climbed back up the tree and 15 minutes since I quit my now certified “outdoors with Hunter Bennett proven rattling sequence” (for $29.95 retail price I will email you a demonstration video) that a doe came prancing into my area.

She walked right beside the shallow leaf grave of the sausage biscuit, and she was very curious, looking around as if searching for the deer that were fighting and that lonesome and willing doe she had heard bleat a few minutes prior.



As I watched her I heard another deer coming in the same way as her, but this one was different. He was being very cautious! I could hardly hear him and would just catch glimpse of movement every so often.

In my mind, I knew it was a buck. I lifted my gun and managed to find him in my scope surrounded by a grove of young saplings. When I saw that one side of his rack had three tines that looked to be 10 inches tall, I knew he was a shooter.

I moved my gun forward about 10 yards and found a hole to shoot in through the bushes. He finally made his way into that spot and I put the crosshairs on the center of his shoulder and gave him a lead deposit. He dropped in his tracks.



I was still unsure of exactly what I had killed. In my mind, I knew it was a big buck, I just wasn’t sure how big. I waited about 10 minutes. Without so much as a kick out of him, I decided it was safe to go check him out.

The rest is history. A fine morning to be N1 of my deer stands!

-By Hunter Bennett

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