If you're deer hunting during doe season, you're looking for antlerless deer. Young male fawns, still antlerless, may resemble does. Shooting a so-called "button buck" might be legal, but if you do so means the animal won't grow into an antlered buck next year.
A button buck is a male fawn six months of age or younger. He's called a button buck because though his antlers haven't yet grown, two bumps or "buttons" have emerged on top of his head. Technically called pedicels, these bumps don't rise much above the skin line, making it hard to tell a buck apart from a doe from a distance.
A full-grown doe has a different body shape than a button buck. She's larger, taller and more rectangular. Her neck is long, while those of fawns are short. Fawns of either sex tend to be square-bodied. A doe's head is also longer, while a button buck's head is somewhat short. Does heads are round, while button bucks' heads are flat near the pedicels.
Does tend to be wary, while buttons bucks are much less prone to sensing danger. If you put food out for deer near your hunting spot, it's more likely that a lone button buck will start chowing down than a single doe.
Alone or in Company
Does usually travel together, but button bucks are generally solo. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, about 75 percent of young bucks leave the area in which they were born, with the average buckling traveling about nine miles, but some going as far as 100 miles away. If you spot an antlerless deer by itself, don't assume it's a doe but take a very good look at it. If you see two young deer together with no adult, it's likely the larger one of the pair is a button buck.
Use binoculars to see whether a deer has pedicels. It's easier to tell the sex of a deer when it's still or moving slowly, not running. Don't take aim unless your visibility is good. It's much easier to tell the difference between a doe and a button buck from above, where the pedicels or lack thereof are clearly visible.
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources: Learn to Identify "Button Bucks"
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Antlered or Antlerless?
- Missouri Department of Conservation: The Button Buck Dilemma
- Field and Stream: The Whitetail Hunter's Three-Point Checklist for Telling the Difference Between a Button Buck and a Doe
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.