Whitetail Deer Facts
Authored by Tractor Supply Company
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Authored by Tractor Supply Company
One of the favorite game animals for hunters is deer. There's nothing more satisfying than successfully bringing one of these beauties home after a careful pursuit in the quiet morning woods. We've put together some whitetail deer facts that will help you better understand your quarry.
There are two species and one additional sub-species of deer that inhabit the North American continent: whitetail deer, mule deer, and a sub-species of mule deer called coastal black-tailed. The whitetail is the most abundant species in the United States. According to the Wildlife Management Institute, the United States currently supports between 12.5 and 14 million whitetail deer. While they live in every state, California, Nevada, and Utah have extremely low populations.
Whitetail deer are rarely taller than 3½ feet high, between 5 and 6½ feet long, and weigh an average of 150 pounds, although they can weigh up to 300 pounds or (rarely) more. They have a reddish brown coat during the summer, which changes to gray-brown in winter. Some of the winter coats even have a bluish tint to them. Year-round the underside of the neck and belly is white, extending to the tip of the tail on the underside (which gives them their name). Their hooves are split and have an even number of toes
A whitetail deer's eyes are on the sides of its head, giving it 310 degrees of vision without rotating its head; however, this also makes it a little more difficult for them to focus. They still have excellent vision, and hearing and smell are even keener. They can rotate their ears in any direction without moving their heads and can detect smells hundreds of yards away, licking the nose to increase its sensitivity.
Deer raise their tails as a warning flag to other deer, and make a variety of communication sounds — grunts, wheezes, bleats, whistles or snorts when startled, or a loud bawl when injured. They have scent glands on their legs, which also help them communicate with other deer. They are very nervous and can bound up to 30 miles an hour when startled. Deer are also good swimmers and can swim up to 13 miles an hour.
Male deer are generally called bucks, but are also variously referred to as stags, bulls, or harts. They have branching, multitined antlers, which grow yearly (as opposed to single-beamed, permanent horns). The antlers begin growing in the spring and, while they grow, are covered with velvet. By late summer, the velvet dries and begins to crack and peel off in preparation for the mating season. As that happens, the buck will speed the process by rubbing his rack against saplings and then honing the tips against soft-barked trees. The velvet left behind or the obviously scraped areas on the trees can mark their trail. The rubbing and honing also will help the buck understand the scope of his antlers for maneuverability, display, and combat purposes. Then, they shed the antlers in midwinter and are bareheaded for a couple of months.
The female deer are most commonly referred to as does, but are also called cows or hinds. Deer usually mate at around two years old, although a female can mate as young as seven months. The gestation period is around 6½ months. First pregnancies usually result in only one fawn, but subsequent pregnancies often result in two or three babies. A fawn can walk as soon as it is born. It nurses every few hours for eight to ten weeks, but can usually forage for itself at around two months old. After four weeks old, fawns accompany the mother during foraging trips, but for the first few weeks, the doe will leave them lying hidden for up to four hours.
In forested areas, they normally feed on buds and twigs of shrubs and deciduous trees, but will eat evergreen trees during winter months because other sources of food are not available. They prefer browsing over grazing, but will eat grass if necessary. In desert areas, they feed on cacti and other plants. They also eat acorns, herbs, mushrooms, berries, and wild fruit, and will definitely cause problems for farmers and gardeners by eating available cultivated food crops as well. They store up fat during the summer to help combat the nutritional lack of green vegetation during winter months.
As the weather gets cooler, they shed the reddish-brown coat and replace it with a heavier gray-brown coat, which they can fluff up to help hold air to help with insulation. They tend to stay around coniferous areas of the forest for increased warmth, as winter gets colder. In addition, they try to find denser areas of shrub vegetation for shelter.
Whitetail deer live in social groups that are either matriarchal (consisting of does and fawns) or male groups with a dominant buck and occasional first-year bucks. They will browse and graze together in herds up to hundreds. Bucks begin fighting each other for mating rights in September. Although they are not territorial animals, they do possess a definite home range. A deer can live its entire life in a one square mile area.
Here's to good hunting. We hope all this information is helpful. In the meantime for hunting equipment and game management supplies (for attracting deer), shop online or visit a Tractor Supply store today.
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