Just the other day I was out hiking with a few of my friends in the mountains. We happened to come across a big pile of droppings that had been left by a very large big game animal. At first we were stumped as to what it could’ve been. The shape of the droppings looked like elk but the pile was way to big to be elk. So we were kind of left dumfounded for a few minutes, then it hit us that it was left by a big moose. And about an hour later that theory was confirmed. As we spotted the culprit a few hundred yards down the trail slowly grazing along.
The reason that it stumped us was because we’ve been hiking and hunting this same area for about 15+ years and have never seen elk this high before but it was not uncommon to see moose on this trail. However the droppings looked very similar if not almost an exact match in shape to elk. And as we continued hiking we began to look out for other droppings to see if we could identify them. We did come across some other droppings that were also huge, but were separated instead of bunched up like elk or moose and were much more oval shaped. And we knew that those could have only been left by a big mule deer buck. Also it was way too high on the mountain to be elk and a moose would also never venture that high. However they were big enough that they could’ve been elk if the shape wasn’t a dead give away.
So why is it important for us hunters to know what the droppings of the animals that we hunt look like? There are a few reasons but one of the obvious reasons is so that you know which type of big game animals are or aren’t in the area. Especially if it’s a new area to you. If you live out west then there are a variety of big game animals to hunt that could possibly be living in the same area. But usually where the elk are the deer aren’t – at least in Utah. So you may be scouting out a new area for mule deer and it may be an area where the majority of the animals living there are elk. So not an ideal place for you to hunt mule deer. As a matter of fact the place that I hunt elk every year has very few if any mule deer. I’m very surprised if and when I do happen to see mule deer in this area. And it’s usually only one or two does every couple of years that are just passing through. But the area looks like it could be a great place for mule deer.
Another reason is because when you find fresh droppings which we all do, you want to know which animal just left that pile. It can definitely aid you in filling your tag. I’ve killed several animals by first finding their fresh droppings then making a stalk on them.
Some big game’s droppings look very similar so it’s good to know the difference between all of them.
I recommend doing an image search on the internet for the various kinds of droppings left by all of the big game animals in North America. It’s also fun just to know which animal’s droppings you’re looking at whether they’re elk, deer, moose, mountain lion, bear or coyote. I learned each animal’s droppings by my father teaching me as we would be out hunting or hiking. This was way back before the Internet though. Now we can easily do a search and find hundreds of great photos.
Be safe and good hunting my friends.
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