If droppings are not fresh, they have little or no hunting value. If fresh, they have great hunting value. Whatever their color (tan, brown or nearly black), droppings that are soft and have shiny surfaces are “very fresh.” Unless the deer that made the droppings was alarmed, very fresh droppings, especially in or near a whitetail feeding area, means one or more of four things:
- the deer is near right now,
- the deer will likely be near sometime between first light and 10 AM this morning,
- the deer will likely be near sometime between mid-afternoon and dusk this evening and/or
- the deer will be near between first light and 10 AM tomorrow morning (unlikely after that).
Beginning shortly before making such a discovery, your relative skill as a hunter will largely determine whether or not you will spot that deer without alarming it within easy shooting range (an easy target) during one or more of the periods listed above.
One shortcoming of fresh droppings is, they do not ordinarily reveal whether or not the deer that made them was alarmed, meaning, while stand hunting near fresh droppings, you may waste a half-day hunting a previously alarmed deer that has temporarily abandoned its range (a major reason why my hunting partners and I change stand sites every half-day). Occasionally a deer will defecate along a path 5–10 feet in length, indicating it was alarmed and trotting or bounding while defecating, therefore unlikely to be seen in the vicinity for the rest of the hunting season.