For novice hunters or individuals looking to gain a little more knowledge with regards to deer species I thought I would put together a quick guide on what to look for and the key differences between our two most common and miss identified deer species.
1) The rump
When looking at the above images the easiest way to distinguish the two species is to ask yourself is the tail dipped in black paint? if you look at the Mule deer (right) you notice the completely white rump and tail with the exception of the very tip.
2) The antlers
Another common way to identify and differentiate these two deer species is by antler configuration. If you look at mule deer's antlers you will be able to notice a definitive fork in the antlers, this is were the main difference lies. looking at the white tailed deer you can see that all antler tips rise from the one main beam. As you see more deer this method of identification becomes easier and easier.
3) Running gait
One of the easiest ways to differentiate the two species is by there run. mule deer have a very distinct run or bounce as the run across the landscape, White tailed deer have a more traditional run similar to that of other large ungulates. Take a quick look at these short clips to get a idea of the difference, its quite obvious and once you get the differences down its one of the best identification methods. you will also notice that when white tailed deer are running there distinct white tail is pointed to the sky and in full view.
The more you are able to go out and observe these deer species the easier it becomes to notice the differences between the two species. As you see more deer, there other unique characteristics like the large ears of the mule deer will become obvious. I hope you found this quick guide useful and I wish you good luck and a great time while out in the backcountry.
- Randy Haviland