Under a variety of negative circumstances very fresh deer droppings 3/8 –1/2 inch long can provide excellent odds for taking mature bucks. The smaller of such droppings are made by yearling does and the larger droppings are made by mature does and yearling bucks (my hunting partners and I generally ignore yearling bucks). While vegetation is yet green & lush (early archery season), while leaves are falling heavily or during an unusually warm and snowless firearm hunting season, the deer signs my hunting partners normally key on – fresh tracks of mature walking bucks in or near feeding areas – can be difficult to spot and assess.
Keying instead on fresh (shiny) doe droppings, the most abundant deer signs in the woods under any of the above circumstances, has proven to be a productive alternative. The reason fresh doe droppings are productive is, mature bucks have an abiding interest in yearling and mature does before, during and after any of the three two-week periods they are normally in heat. Between the beginning of September until the end of the first week in January, whether does are in heat or not, mature bucks often visit them during hours whitetails normally feed – the reason feeding areas currently favored by does are the most likely of locations to spot mature bucks during any hunting season.
Does are most attractive to bucks, of course, while they are in heat, emitting airborne pheromone irresistible to bucks. This normally begins November 3–5, depending on which square-mile I am hunting in Minnesota, and ends about the 17th. Each doe is only in heat 24-26 hours and only about 10–12% are in heat on any one day during this two week period. There being no way to predict exactly when any doe will be in heat, the best my hunting partners can do (which is pretty good) is hunt doe feeding areas until we finally find one in which a mature buck (the biggest buck living in the surrounding square-mile) appears or is accompanying a doe. The odds of taking a mature buck are greater at larger feeding areas where more than one mature doe and its young of abutting home ranges currently feed, increasing the likelihood at least one will be currently in heat. My hunting partners and I almost always take 1–2 mature bucks at larger feeding areas shared by multiple does on opening morning. Doe feeding areas are made evident by lots of shiny droppings and tracks made by mature does, yearling does and fawns 2–3 weeks before a hunting season begins and/or on adjacent deer trails during a hunting season.
During firearm hunting seasons lacking snow in Minnesota (becoming more common), keying on shiny doe droppings in or adjacent to feeding areas has always paid off sooner or later, enabling my hunting partners and me to take our usual agreed-upon limit of four (sometimes five) mature bucks on public land per hunting season.