The Whitetail Hunter's Three-Point Checklist for Telling the Difference Between a Button Buck and a Doe

As deer populations continue to increase, so does the need to harvest does. And while there's nothing illegal, or wrong, about taking a button buck during an antlerless season, most of us would prefer to harvest a female and let a young buck grow to maturity.

The problem is, it's not easy to tell the difference between does and fawn bucks--unless you know exactly what to look for.

PHYSICAL TRAITS First, adult does are larger than fawn bucks, and being longer than they are tall, their bodies have a rectangular shape. Fawns, both male and female, are about as long as they are tall, making them more squarish. Also, whereas the head of an adult doe is long and bottle-shaped, a fawn's head is stubbier.

All female deer, whether fawn or fully grown, have a head that is rounded on the top. A button buck's is almost flat. And although male fawns lack antlers, when you view them from above (such as from a tree stand), you can often see the bony "buttons" that will develop into a rack.

BEHAVIORAL TRAITS Fawn bucks are less cautious than female deer of any age. If you are watching a food plot in the afternoon and a single antlerless deer trots out and promptly starts eating, it is almost assuredly a fawn buck. Does are wary to the point of appearing nervous.

THREE-POINT CHECKLIST Brian Murphy, the executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association, recommends that hunters use the best binoculars they can afford and follow this three-point checklist before shooting:

  1. [1] Is the body rectangular-shaped?

  2. [2] Is the head round on top?

  3. [3] Is the deer cautious and alert?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, you can shoot--confident you'll tag a doe.

ADULT DOE Rectangular body Long, bottle-shaped profile Round head

FAWN BUCK Square body Short, stubby profile Developing antlers Flat head