Identifying Wildlife in Nature
One of the principal rules of firearm safety is: Be sure of your target and beyond. In other words, you must be able to identify what species of wildlife you are looking at.
Imagine you are hunting in an area where both white-tailed and mule deer live, but hunting regulations allow you to take only white-tailed deer. You spot what is clearly a deer, but you can’t tell definitively which type it is. Before you shoot, it is your responsibility to make absolutely sure that the deer you are looking at is not a mule deer. Can you tell the difference? Can you tell the difference in the field with your heart pounding and a big buck ready to leap away at any second?
In Montana, it’s illegal to take female pheasants. When a pheasant flies up in front of you, you have only a split second to decide if it’s a rooster or a hen. Do you know what to look for?
Wildlife identification is a skill. The best way to practice and develop it is to look for live animals in their natural habitats. Once you’ve found them, study them for a while, and see how they behave.