Here are a ton of Deer Facts!
Much of the following information derived from our very own deer talk forums on TnDeer.Com. These were questions presented too and then answered by Bryan Kinkel (BSK on the Talk Forums), a consulting wildlife manager who works for Woods and Associates, Inc. Information derived from other sources are credited as such.
A Deers Eyes & Sunlight
A deer’s eyes are built to function best in low light – the gray light just before sunrise and just after sunset. Deer can “see in the dark,” but not quite as well as they can during gray light. However, because they lack UV filters in their eyes, deer don’t see as well as we do in full sunlight.
If you watch deer activity in an unhunted environment, open fields and food plots fill up with deer as soon as the sun sets. In hunted areas, deer generally don’t enter fields until after dark.
The yellowish UV filters humans have in their eyes make our full daylight vision much crisper and sharper than a deer’s vision (similar to how yellow-tinted shooting glasses or scope filters make things look “crisper”). Deer do not have these filters because the filters interfere with low-light and night vision. Another reason humans have UV filters in their eyes is to protect against long-term ultraviolet radiation damage from the sun. Deer do not live long enough for this to be a problem for them.
A Deers Home Range
Deer home ranges are highly variable and are affected by a number of factors, including: habitat, herd density, geographic region, habitat diversity, etc. Plus, there is a lot of confusion concerning the difference between an “annual” home range and “seasonal” home range. A deer’s annual home range (the area it covers in an entire year) can be quite large, yet it’s seasonal home range (the area the deer covers during a particular season of the year) can be amazingly small.
Deer basically have a “range” just large enough to meet all of their needs. Traveling long distances is bad for survival (burns excess energy and increases exposure to predators). If they can meet all of their needs in a very small area, they will do so. That is why -as habitat managers – we work hard to create highly diverse habitat, especially when working on small managed properties. If the habitat is diverse, the deer will travel less and they will spend the majority of their time on the small property. When the habitat is highly diverse, we’ve seen individual deer have summer ranges of as little as 20-30 acres, simply because they didn’t need to travel any further. However, in large, homogeneous habitat areas, such as thousands of acres of similar age hardwoods, deer may need to travel great distances to meet their needs.
Blue Tongue Disease
Blue tongue (BT) and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) are the two forms of Hemorrhagic Disease (HD).
Both forms of HD are spread by a midge (a small biting fly). Although HD does not spread from deer to deer, high concentrations of deer are known to increase the likelihood of an outbreak (simply because there are more hosts for the midges to feed on). Weather conditions also play a part in outbreaks, with warm, wet summers contributing to outbreaks (good conditions for midge reproduction).
In TN, there are localized outbreaks of HD nearly every year. But since the state’s herds are exposed to the disease on a fairly regular basis, these outbreaks rarely cause massive die-offs. Some deer will die, while others become very sick. These outbreaks usually occur in late summer, and HD victims can often be found lying dead along creeks, streams and ponds, as the fever caused by the disease drives them to water. Deer that survive HD often display cracked or deformed hooves.
Camera Census ~ How To Do It
One camera for every 160 acres is the minimum recommended camera density (on a baited census) to still produce statistically viable numbers. However, to ensure I’m getting a good census, I try to get my camera density a little tighter, say one camera for every 100 or 120 acres.
When placed over bait, the camera delay should start at 10 minutes and then be adjusted if too many pictures of the same animal appear. Of course, that will depend on how long the local deer stay at a bait station. I’ve seen hungry deer stay at a station for 40-50 minutes per visit. In that situation, a camera delay of at least 20 minutes is required. But if the average stay is 5-10 minutes, a 10 minute delay works perfect. The cameras should run for *at least* 10 consecutive days. Fourteen days is better. Start pre-baiting the area for 10 days in advance of the start of the census.
For locating the camera station, after dividing the area into the appropriate sized blocks (whatever the camera density is going to be), then subdivide each block in thirds both longitudinally and latitudinally. Hence, each block is subdivided into 9 sub-units (3×3). Choose the central sub-unit for locating the census site. The bait station can be anywhere within that central sub-unit. This allows some flexibility while still maintaining the appropriate spatial design.
You might find some interesting differences between pre and post-season censuses. It is commonplace for pre-season censuses to slightly favor bucks, while post-season censuses slightly favor does. For this reason – if you have the time – I highly recommend you conduct both each year, and only compare pre-season census data to other pre-season data, and like-wise for post-season comparisons.
I recommend you use the maximum exposures you can buy (generally 36). I also recommend Kodak 400 speed film for automatic cameras (most forgiving of different exposure rates). On a non-baited census (or just placing the camera along a trail) I like a longer exposure film such as 800 speed (Kodak 800 for automatic zoom cameras). The 800 speed will give you twice the “flash” distance at night as 400 will. However, with a baited camera location, most of the deer will be right in front of the camera so the 400 speed will work fine. But also make sure you don’t place the camera too far from the bait. I prefer 12-15 yards away. This sounds too close until you look at the pictures.
At first, check the film every day to see how many exposures are used in a 24 hour period. Then you can adjust how often you need to recheck the camera and bait.
A couple more tips:
1) Point the camera north. You don’t want the sun shining into the sensor.
2) Take some advice from a “Master Baiter” (don’t you love that nickname) and spread light trails of bait radiating out from the main source – like spokes extending from a hub. Just dribble a handful of bait every 4 or 5 steps, out about 50-60 yards in several directions from the main bait. This will give a “food trail” for deer to follow to the main bait pile.
Know Your Game!
Diseases and Anomalies of Whitetailed Deer
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Diseased
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Diseased (EHD), a viral disease of white-tailed deer (WTD) spread by biting insects (midges), is commonly encountered from late summer through early winter. EHD occurs in two forms. In the acute (late summer) form, affected deer are found weak or dead with a swelled head, neck, and tongue. The lungs are normally hemorrhagic and “wet,” and there may be ulceration and hemorrhage on the tongue, esophagus, and forestomachs. In the chronic (fall/winter) form, deer become thin or emaciated, with healing ulcers in the digestive tract. They usually have deformed and/or sloughing hooves.
Anthrax, caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis, is a rapidly fatal septicemic disease of all hoofed animals. Other species, including humans, may also be infected. Affected animals are generally found dead, but in good body condition. There may be a bloody discharge coming from body openings (e.g. mouth, nose, anus, and genital tract), and a lack of rigor mortis. When exposed to air, the organism forms very resistant spores that may reside in the soil for decades. If you suspect anthrax, DO NOT open the carcass, and seek assistance immediately. Transmission to humans is usually through scratches and skin wounds, but inhalation and ingestion have produced rapidly fatal human infections. If you suspect that you have been exposed to anthrax, seek medical attention immediately.
Cutaneous fibromas are benign, viral-induced skin tumors that are rarely life threatening unless located near the eyes or mouth where they impede sight or foraging. The tumors are “wart-like,” up to 8 inches in length, and hairless. Occasionally, they become ulcerated and infected. Their presence, unless severely contaminated, does not render the carcass unfit for consumption.
Parasitism is common in all wildlife but rarely represents a cause of mortality (death loss). However, in combination with other factors (e.g. poor habitat, crowding, malnutrition, harassment, other stresses) parasitism may contribute to poor herd health. Animal parasites are frequently separated into ectoparasites (external) and endoparasites (internal).
Ectoparasites that infest the skin of WTD include numerous species of ticks, mites (mange), and lice. These agents may cause localized or widespread irritation that may lead to secondary infections. Infestation is frequently accompanied by hair-loss, redness, and crusting of the skin and ear canals. Perhaps more important are the diseases that these parasites may spread to humans (i.e. Lyme Disease or borreliosis).
Endoparasites include numerous species of roundworms, flukes, and insect larvae (bots) that invade various body systems of WTD and are frequently encountered when field dressing carcasses.
Nasal bots (Cephanemyia spp.) are the 1-3 cm long tan or white fly larvae that may be found in the upper nasal passages of WTD. The eggs are laid in the hair surrounding the muzzle, and bots move into the nasal passage during part of their cycle. Nasal bots do not pose a health threat to deer.
Lung worms (Dictyocaulus) of WTD are similar to those of domestic cattle. Clusters and lumps of thread-like worms (up to 6 cm in length) may be found in trachea, bronchi, and, rarely, in smaller airways. Heavy infestation may lead to pneumonia and death. Generally, losses due to lung worms are associated with multiple factors and are indicative of overcrowding.
Other nematodes include the arterial worm (Eleaphora) and stomach worm (Hemonchus). These are several centimeters in length and less than 2 millimeters in diameter. Heavy infestations by these can cause disease and poor-health in the herd. Eleaphora inhabit the carotid arteries in the neck and induce facial swelling and oral feed impaction. Hemonchus lives in the abomasum (“true stomach”) and may produce anemia, gastric hemorrhage, and emaciation.
The large liver fluke (Fascioloides magna) is seen in WTD and domestic cattle. They are “leaf-shaped,” up to 5 cm long, and found in thick-walled spaces within the liver. Heavy infestations may lead to ill health and secondary liver scarring, but they usually do not cause major losses in WTD.
Disease and parasites are part of the natural environment and are expected to be present to some degree in all populations. The effects of these organisms may range from negligible to high levels of mortality.
Nutritional deficiencies reduce the capacity of an animal to resist infection. Significant mortality from disease or heavy parasite loads is usually an indicator that populations have exceeded the carrying capacity of the habitat and that nutritional levels are inadequate. In fact, abomasal parasites counts (APCs) are a proven method of herd health evaluation with high APC values indicating overpopulation.
Habitat management practices such as food plots, soil fertilization, controlled burning, and timber management can often improve nutritional levels. However, food plots may also facilitate the spread of disease or parasites by concentrating feeding activity into small areas. Prevention is the only practical solution for combating disease and parasite problems. Veterinary treatment of wild populations is impractical. Improving herd health by harvesting enough female animals to maintain the population at or below the carrying capacity of the habitat, combined with good habitat management practices, is the only effective option.
The term anomaly is used to describe genetic abnormalities that are present in animals before birth. Anomalies are rare in wild deer populations, since individuals with severe abnormalities seldom survive. Anomalies have little impact on deer populations and are of interest only because of their uniqueness and the curiosity they generate. Anomalies of wild deer that are occasionally observed by sportsmen fall into three general categories: (1) color, (2) skeletal, and (3) antlers.
Abnormal coloration is the most obvious observed in wild deer. This includes albinism (the absence of all pigment in the hair and skin), melanism (excessive amounts of dark pigment in the hair and skin), and piebald (unpigmented spots). Piebald animals are by far the most widespread of this group. Since the white coloration of albino or piebald deer makes these animals more visible, they are subject to higher than normal predation rates while young. Piebald deer with a large proportion of white often have shorter than normal legs and dorsal bowing of the nasal bone (Roman nose). Albinism and melanism are extremely rare.
Wild deer with serious skeletal defects are seldom observed since such animals have a poor chance of survival. Shortened legs and Roman nose were mentioned as occurring in conjunction with the piebald condition. Normal colored deer are occasionally seen with a Roman nose. Animals with shortened lower jaws also occur. Abnormalities of the teeth are not conditions that would normally be observed, but due to the large number of jawbones being removed for age determination, more hunters are seeing these conditions. Abnormalities of the teeth that have been noted are the presence of extra teeth (usually a vestigial canine tooth), a missing tooth, or a tooth turned at an abnormal angle.
Unusual antler characteristics are so frequent that there is a separate class provided for them in trophy record books. The exact cause for atypical racks is not fully known, but possible causes are sex hormone imbalances, injury or infection during the velvet stage of antler development, and inherited traits. A few causes of bucks with a third antler and of males with no antler pedicels have been recorded. Several reports of “antlered does” being killed by hunters are heard each year. Such animals usually have polished antlers, and the vast majority of these are male pseudo-hermaphrodites that have external sex organs resembling a female, but have male organs internally. The rare, antlered doe, with a normal female reproductive tract, has velvet-covered antlers.
Anomalies have little impact on deer populations. However, anomalies occur more frequently in high deer populations. At higher population levels, more fawns are born, increasing the chances of unusual traits occurring. An increased number of observations of abnormal animals in a herd should be interpreted as an indicator that the herd may have surpassed optimum population levels, especially if accompanied by declines in average weights, antler, and reproduction indices.
The above information reproduced from MSUcares.com, the web site of the Mississippi State University Extension Service
Dropping Size ~ Buck or Doe?
Some will tell you that big pellets come from a buck, while small pellets are from a doe.
However, pellet size is determined by what the deer are eating, and pellets from an individual deer can vary in size dramatically depending on the diet.
Genetics and Antlers of Whitetailed Deer
The role of genetics in antler development is one of the most misunderstood areas of deer management. Many of the public think that genetics and inbreeding are the reasons that big bucks of yesteryear are no longer common place. We do know that genetics is an extremely important component of the deer management formula. However, genetics is just one of the factors that governs antler development. Age, nutrition, disease, and injury are often more important contributors to a buck’s antlers than is genetics.
To understand the role that genetics plays in antler development it is first necessary to understand the contributions other factors make to a buck’s antlers. Most importantly, the animal has to have adequate nutrition. Without adequate nutrition a buck with the genetic background to become the world record white-tailed buck might be less than average. An example of the importance of nutrition was demonstrated by a nine year-old buck that was acquired for breeding in the Mississippi State deer research facility. When acquired the buck had been in a private deer facility in Missouri and had been fed a mostly corn diet the previous year. It should be noted that corn is a very poor quality food for deer except during periods of high-energy drain during cold periods of the year. It is high in carbohydrates but low in protein (about 8 percent). On the corn diet, the animal grew an 8 point rack, had a 17 inch inside spread, 18 inch long main beams, and a gross Boone and Crockett score of about 115. After being in the Mississippi State pens for one year on a normal 16% protein ration, the animal’s antlers increased to 21 points, a 27.5 inch inside spread, 28 inch main beams, and a gross Boone and Crockett score of 210.
Age can also effect a buck’s antlers dramatically. Whitetailed deer do not achieve maturity until they are 5 to 8 years of age. Studies at Mississippi State have demonstrated the average buck achieves only about 10 percent of his potential antler development by age 1.5 years (when he completes his first set of antlers as an 18-month-old buck). We also have been able to demonstrate that there is little relationship between the first year antlers and the antler development a buck will have when he reaches the mature age classes of 5 years or older. This means a spike-antlered buck has a good chance of becoming a trophy-quality adult buck. By the time a buck has completed his second set of antlers he still has achieved only 25-35 percent of his potential antler development. At 3 years of age (few bucks live longer than this in Mississippi because of hunting pressure), a buck still only has achieved about 50 percent of his potential antler quality. It is not until 5 years of age that most bucks approach their full antler potential, and often, antlers don’t reach their maximum size until 7 or 8 years of age (for captive animals raised under ideal conditions). Probably less than 1 out of 5,000 bucks would survive to the 6-year-old age class with the hunting pressure now across most of Mississippi. It is no wonder we don’t see the quality of bucks that existed “back in the good old days,” when hunting pressure was very low compared to today.
Another feature that may develop with age is an often-dramatic change in the conformation of a buck’s antlers. Stories abound in sporting magazines about how hunters have pursued the same buck from a young age until they developed into full maturity. It is probably the exception, however, rather than the rule that a hunter could tell he was hunting the same buck from one year to the next. In watching our captive deer develop, a high percentage will experience significant antler conformation changes by the time they reach the older age classes and bear little if any resemblance to what their antlers looked like as 1, 2, or 3 year-olds. It is also the older age class bucks that begin to develop atypical points. A buck that has a perfectly symmetrical 8 point, as a three year-old, can conceivably have 16 or more points by age 6 years. However, some bucks develop their antler conformation at a relatively young age, and it certainly is not unusual for an 8 point yearling buck to remain an 8 point when mature.
Two other factors that effect a buck’s antler conformation are injury and disease. Injury to a buck’s antler while they are still in the velvet will often result in asymmetrical antlers with odd points, double main beams, or other abnormal characteristics. Generally, antler injuries of this type do not result in antler abnormalities the second and following years unless they occur near the base of the growing antler or to the skull. If the injury is near the base of the antler, the injury can result in abnormal development in subsequent years as well as the present year. Injury to other parts of the skeleton can also result in abnormal antler growth during subsequent years. It is well documented that skeletal injury to a hind leg will result in the opposite antler being malformed in the next and in subsequent antler growth periods. Injury to a front leg often results in the antler on the same side of the body being malformed.
Disease also can cause antler growth to be abnormal. The bluetongue and hemorrhagic diseases often occur during late summer when antlers are growing and cause antler growth to cease at that time. Bucks to which this occurs often have blackened, pithy antler tips for that year. Disease can also permanently restrict potential antler development. Nutritional and hemorrhagic can damage the digestive tract and prevent an animal from ever obtaining its optimum body condition and antler development.
Given proper nutrition, age and no injuries or debilitating diseases, it is genetics that determine the final development of a buck’s antlers! Two deer can be raised together to 7 years of age under optimum nutrition and conditions. One may become a Boone and Crockett deer while the other may only develop into a mediocre 6 or 8 point deer. In this case, the genetic makeup Mother Nature gave them would determine the antler development. We know there are some geographical areas that consistently produce better quality antlers than others. We also know that, with the exception of antler injury, it is genetics that determines whether a buck will have typical or atypical antlers. Our research has shown that a buck does not always transmit his antler qualities to his offspring. For example, a buck with very poor antler qualities may produce offspring with very good antler qualities and vice versa. This means there is very little that can be done to practically manage genetics in a wild deer population because we cannot determine which deer will pass the superior genes to its offspring. Additionally, even if we could select a “superior” buck, 50 percent of the offspring’s genetic information is supplied by the doe, and there is no way to identify the superior doe! Research at Mississippi State has demonstrated doe’s are equally, or more important, than bucks to determining the offspring’s antler qualities. This does not mean that we will not manage genetics of the white-tailed deer in the future. In fact, it is probable that we will do so through genetic introduction. However, we first need to better understand through research, such as that being conducted by Mississippi State, what is prudent and wise to do when considering manipulation of genetics in wild populations.
Crossbreeding Michigan and Mississippi Deer, a Research Update
In 1989, the first Michigan deer made the long journey from Houghton Lake, Michigan, to Starkville, Mississippi. A year later a group of Mississippi deer went north to Michigan. We have answered some of our questions in the intervening years. First, we have found that deer moved from the northern U.S. to the southern U.S. may have a difficult time adapting. Of 5 male and 10 female Michigan deer originally transported to the Mississippi State University research facility, only 5 females survived to 1994. Six of the Michigan deer died as fawns from the viral hemorrhagic disease, and 4 deer died at 2-3 years of age from pneumonia. In the same period, none of the native Mississippi deer in the Mississippi State facility died from hemorrhagic disease and no similar cases of pneumonia were seen. This suggests that the Michigan deer lack immunities to some of the diseases common in the southern U.S.
Surprisingly, the southern deer seem to have adapted quite well to the northern U.S. Although three Mississippi deer died from incidental injuries soon after their transfer to Michigan, most adapted very well to the colder climate.
The most obvious visual difference between the two races of deer is skeletal size. On average, the Mississippi deer are considerably smaller in stature than their northern counterparts. Within the same age classes, Michigan deer outweighed the Mississippi deer by an average of 25 to 30 lbs. for does and 25 to 50 lbs. for bucks.
Although body size differences were dramatic, other less obvious differences may ultimately prove more significant to the biology of the white-tailed deer. Two events we are paying close attention to are fawning dates and the timing of antler events.
One surprise finding was that the Mississippi buck in Michigan was not able to breed Michigan does at their normal breeding time. The buck was not ready to breed the does in their normal first heat cycle. As a result, the does bred by the Mississippi buck had fawns one month later than normal.
Except for those Michigan does bred by the displaced Mississippi buck, fawning dates of Michigan does have averaged almost 7 weeks earlier than Mississippi does. However, both Mississippi and Michigan does had fawns an average of 3 weeks earlier when in Michigan than in Mississippi.
Timing of the rut can be related to the buck’s physical performance. This is seen when we examine the timing of antler events. Hardening of the antlers and shedding of antler velvet averaged almost a month later for Mississippi deer than Michigan deer, whether in Mississippi or in Michigan. Similarly, the casting of antlers averaged a month later for Mississippi deer.
Interestingly, the seasonal event of molting from winter-to-summer and summer-to-winter coat has not been different between the two races of deer. However, we have seen later molting for both races of deer when in Michigan compared to Mississippi, with molts occurring almost three weeks earlier in Mississippi than in Michigan.
It is well documented that daylight length regulates the timing of molting and reproductive events of deer. The preliminary findings of this study suggest that the photoperiod differences between the two locations are causing these normal seasonal events of reproduction and molting to occur three weeks earlier or later, depending on the geographic location. However, what is surprising about our results is that reproduction appears not only to be governed by photo-period signals, but also by a genetic clock which causes the two races of deer to respond at different times to the same photoperiod signals. The test of this finding will result in how the crossbred offspring from the two races of deer respond.
Initial results of reproductive activity from crossbred offspring seem to be confirming a genetic linkage is occurring for reproductive timing. The crossbred does followed so far have had fawning dates between the two parent races.
Much research remains to be conducted in the area of genetics. The results should provide many exciting new discoveries about the importance of genetics and environment to the white-tailed deer.
What is the importance about this study to the average sportsperson? The answer relates to the practice of wildlife management in every state in the country. All states have had native wildlife introduced, or reintroduced, at some time, from other geographic locations. Some of these relocations have been harmful and some beneficial to the gene pools of resident wildlife species. It is foolhardy to think that genetics will be an unimportant component of wildlife management in the future. In fact, genetics have historically been important on a large scale. With this in mind, it is extremely important we find out how genetics effects traits important to survival, reproduction, growth, and other qualities of wildlife. What better place or species to start with than our favorite game species, the white-tailed deer! Hopefully, the results of this and other studies will allow us the opportunity to wisely manage attempts involving the genetic manipulation of our native game species.
Survival Rate and Cause of Death of Adult Bucks in Mississippi
Quality Deer Management (QDM) is being practiced on many hunting clubs and on public lands in Mississippi. Because with QDM young bucks are passed over by hunters and allowed to live to older age classes, it is important to know the survival rates of adult bucks when subject to hunting mortality. A study funded by Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (MDWFP), participating hunting clubs, Anderson Tully Company, and Deer Hunting Magazine, has helped to address this question.
We implemented a study to find the answer to the question, “what happens if young bucks are let go by hunters?” From 1989-1994, a total of 320 deer were captured on 16 study areas. Radio transmitters were placed on 167 adult bucks. Mortality occurred for 92 of the transmitter collared animals with 72 (78 percent) dying from gunshot, 12 (13 percent) from unknown causes, 6 (7 percent) capture related, 1 (1 percent) from meningitis and 1 (1 percent) from pneumonia.
These preliminary results indicate that adult bucks in Mississippi have very low natural mortality rates. If protected from hunting mortality as yearlings, there is an extremely high probability that the same buck will live to an older age class. Thus, protecting these young bucks should not greatly reduce the hunter’s bag. Instead, protecting young bucks improves the quality of the deer herd and the hunting experience.
What Has Happened to the Rut?
The two men in the coffee shop were in a dilemma. They had always scheduled a week’s vacation the first part of January. For many years, that was the week the deer moved the most and hunting seemed at its best. The last couple of years, however, the deer hunting had not been the same. In earlier years, they could always count on the bucks to be chasing does at that time. It seemed things changed the year after they had agreed to follow a biologist’s recommendations and start harvesting many does. Now they were not so sure they had done the right thing. They were seeing fewer deer and the hunting definitely did not seem as good as before. However, they had to admit the deer they did harvest were in better condition and all the does seemed to have two fawns.
The conversation was just about to change subjects when another man who belonged to their hunting club entered the restaurant. They had not seen their friend since before last hunting season. The conversation turned back to hunting, and they asked what sort of hunting season their friend had. They were surprised to hear that he thought the last season had been the best he ever had. He had always taken his vacation the week before Christmas. He could not remember when he had seen so much deer activity. He had killed a heavy-beamed 10 point on Christmas Eve morning as it chased a doe past his stand.
The situation just described is happening all over the South. The dates might range from October through January, but the rut is changing. To understand why, we need to examine what determines the rut.
The rut is the period when breeding occurs. It is determined by when the does enter estrus, or heat. In much of Mississippi and Alabama the rut can be as late as the first couple weeks of January. Recent research has indicated that the rut is controlled largely by genetics. In fact, deer can be found somewhere in North America breeding in every month of the year.
We know that the rut can be modified by changing the photoperiod, or hours of day-length, a deer is exposed to. This is because of a photo-sensitive gland known as the pineal gland found at the base of the brain. This gland is actually derived embryologically from a third eye. The pineal gland controls the reproductive centers of the brain and serves as a “biological clock.” We believe that genetics sets this biological clock, but photoperiod regulates when the clock starts or stops.
A scientist named Richard Goss demonstrated the importance of photoperiod. Dr. Goss found that if deer were placed in controlled rooms and the number of dark versus light hours in the day were regulated, the reproductive period of deer could be changed. In fact, deer transported to the Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand or Australia) from the Northern Hemisphere will actually change their reproductive cycles by 6 months.
Despite the importance of photoperiod as a regulator of the rut, photoperiod changes do not explain the changing rut currently experienced by many hunting clubs. Annual changes can occur due to slight changes in the weather, but it does not account for the magnitude of change we see in some areas. In fact, although the timing of the rut has changed for some hunting clubs, others in the same areas have not changed. So what is causing this change?
Many clubs harvest an average of 70 percent of the antlered bucks annually. This pressure on adult bucks produces a heavy distortion of sex ratios, and we believe this results in too few bucks to breed the receptive does on their first estrous cycle. When a doe comes into estrous, or heat, she is receptive to a buck for a period of about 24 hours. If she is not bred in that period or does not become pregnant, she will not come into estrous again for another 22-28 day period.
We have seen a changing rut where hunter harvest has shifted from heavy buck and light doe harvest to heavy doe and moderate buck harvest. An early 1990’s study at Mississippi State University found that hunting clubs that harvested at least as many does as bucks had average breeding dates at least 2 weeks earlier than those that did not have equal sex harvest. Some clubs that have been practicing equal-sex deer harvest for many years have actually shifted the rut as much as a month earlier.
Hunting clubs now engaged in QDM (showing restraint in harvest of yearling and 2-year old bucks and harvesting an adequate number of does) have seen many positive changes in their deer herd. Not only has it provided more venison for the table, but also the chance to harvest 3-year old and older bucks in numbers never before experienced. Because fawning is earlier, fawns develop earlier and experience higher survival and better growth rates.
With proper management, the end result is everyone wins. Hunters have an earlier rut to hunt. The deer herd and habitat are in better condition. It seems contrary to what many hunters were raised to believe; i.e. shooting as many does as bucks. However, we now know doe harvest is required if we want to maintain deer herds in their most productive state. Most deer herds in the South have increased to the point that they will seriously damage their habitat, health, and productivity unless adequate antlerless harvest is practiced. Hunters should be aware that adequate antlerless harvest will change the period of the rut. Thus, start now in planning an earlier vacation for the future!
The above information reproduced from MSUcares.com, the web site of the Mississippi State University Extension Service
Good Deer Management
All good deer management is site specific – it must be tailored to the location.
However, there are some basic concepts to keep in mid for small properties.
1) On a small property, great cover is more important than great food. *During the hunting season*, older bucks are more concerned with surviving than eating. If you want to hold deer on your small property during gun season, they must have cover to hide in.
2) Biodiversity would be your greatest habitat management tool. Breaking up the property into a patchwork quilt of habitat types has many benefits, most prominantly shrinking home range size, which will keep more of an individual deer’s travels on your property allowing you more harvest control over that animal. Also with smaller home range sizes, you can have more deer on your property. Highly diverse habitat not only has I higher food resource carry capacity, it also has a higher “social” carrying capacity (social/health problems occur if too many deer are trying to use the same piece of habitat, regardless of food carrying capacity).
Food plot practices have really caught on with hunters/managers, but I’m growing concerned that too many think that food plots are deer management. Food plot certainly can be a very useful management tool, but they are not deer management in total. In fact, if harvest strategies are not altered, food plots can cause more harm than good. Food plots should *not* be used to “carry” the deer herd. In essence, food plots should not be used to raise the food carry capacity so that more deer can inhabit the property. Food plots are at the mercy of the weather, and a bad growing season can result in food plot failure. What are those “extra” deer you’ve grown using the food plots going to do for an entire poor growing season? The appropriate use of food plots is to provide food of higher *quality* than exists in the native habitat. Total food *quantity* should be produced through the native habitat. Use habitat manipulations to produce *more* food, while using food plots to provide highly nutritious foods.
A second completely legitimate use of food plots is simply as attractants to help in harvesting enough does. Food plots are a great place to shoot does, for many reasons. If you ever decide to get into habitat management in a big way, I promise you that keeping the deer density in control will be your biggest problem. Create all that food and cover, and your local herd density will explode – much faster than you ever imagined possible. Your observations (deer not using the food plots) are right on the money, and exactly the way deer work. The native habitat should be carrying your deer, not your food plots. In fact, I would consider a program extremely successful if the food plots showed no deer use at all. This would mean the habitat management is working and providing the deer with all the food they need.
That’s another misconception about food plots. I’ve heard hunters, and even one famous “manager”, say they think it’s great when food plots are eaten to the ground. In fact, many hunters think their food plots are a failure if the plots aren’t getting pounded by the deer. Yet food plots being “pounded” is actually a bad sign. It means deer aren’t getting enough to eat from the native habitat.
Shooting Yearling Bucks
When analyzing harvest and observation data from a small managed property, something really caught my eye concerning yearling buck harvests and the rate of older-age buck sightings the following year. I analyzed the data by the average number of yearling bucks harvested per square mile versus the average older-age buck sighting rate for the *following year* (the older-age buck sighting rate is the number of older-age bucks [2 1/2+ year-olds] observed per hunting hour). The results were illuminating. There was a direct correlation between the two. The results are as follows:
When the number of yearling bucks harvested per square mile was zero, the average older-age buck sighting rate *the following year* was 0.049, or 1 older-age buck seen for every 20.4 hunting hours.
For years when the average yearling buck harvest was 1.3 yearling bucks per square mile, the average older-age buck sighting rate *for the following year* dropped to 0.021, or 1 older-age buck seen for every 47.6 hunting hours.
At a yearling buck harvest rate of 2.6 yearling bucks per square mile, the average older-age buck observation rate for the following year dropped to 0.017, or 1 older-age buck seen for every 58.8 hunting hours.
At 3.9 or more yearling bucks harvested per square mile, the buck observation rates dropped to zero the following year – no older-age bucks seen at all.
Just one more reminder that shooting yearling bucks *WILL* have a negative effect on older-age buck sightings the next year, and it doesn’t take many yearling bucks being harvested to show serious effects the following year. This is especially important for clubs/leases that have or are considering allowing new hunters and/or youth to shooting any buck, including yearlings.
Simply put: shooting yearling bucks – even just a few – *will have* a negative impact on the results of a quality deer management program.
The reason shooting does is so important are:
1) To control the herd density. You must keep the herd density below the food production capacity of the habitat. If not, you end up with a lot of really scrawny deer and very poor reproductive success (few fawns surviving). I constantly hear hunters say, “our deer are really small, we must have bad genetics in the area”. No, they don’t have bad genetics, they have too many deer for the habitat, and those deer are not getting enough to eat. Hunters either don’t realize or won’t accept the fact that the most common habitat in TN (repeatedly high-graded hardwoods) will not support many deer. Depending on how recently the hardwoods were last high-graded, the food capacity may only support 15-25 deer per square mile. If you only have 150 acres of this type habitat to hunt on, then only 4-6 deer live on the property (although more cross the property), and that’s all the deer the property can feed.
2) Shooting does helps to balance the sex ratio between adult bucks and adult does. This is important because breeding competition really drives the health of the deer herd. It controls Natural Selection, fawn birthing dates, health of fawns and later adult deer, the amount of stress placed on the buck population during the rut, and so many other factors it would take a long list to describe them all. But from a hunting perspective, breeding competition drives daylight buck activity. Even if you had some older bucks in the area, if there are 6 adult does for every buck, there is no competition for breeding, and those older bucks will rarely move during daylight – they don’t have to. Deer are not brilliant animals, but older bucks are survival machines. They know that moving in daylight is very dangerous. If they don’t have to move during daylight due to a lack of breeding competition, they won’t. The only thing that can force them to move during daylight is competition for receptive does. It is not a coincidence that most big bruiser bucks get killed during the rut. But if there is no breeding competition, there is no reason for a big buck to move during the times hunters are in the woods.
Whitetailed Deer Behavior
Behavior of the whitetailed deer is certainly one of the more interesting areas of study to sportsmen, not only in Mississippi, but also throughout all areas in the range of this subspecies. Deer enthusiasts simply want to know what a deer of either sex is doing, why it is doing it and where it is doing it. Encounters with deer vary from happenstance roadside viewing and backyard visits to the purposeful pursuit of deer for sport hunting with the desire to harvest the animal. As the deer enthusiast’s knowledge of deer behavior increases, their chance of being in an area at the proper time to encounter a deer increases. Outings by sportsmen then become more productive and more satisfying when deer activity is observed and to some degree is understood.
Deer are social creatures and, much like man, have a definite social structure. With this social structure comes a complex set of rules with which every deer in the herd must comply. These rules within the deer herd demand a method of communication whereby deer can react and respond to each other, establish herd hierarchy, or pecking order, and mutually warn each other of potential danger.
A socially intact deer herd, which is complete with doe/fawn family groups and buck groups, can intermingle with relative calm because dominance is established. Deer understand the difference between dominance and leadership. For example, a mature doe may be in a subordinate role to a specific buck, but clearly be the leader of the deer herd. The deer, like most of the animal world, reacts, cooperates, and communicates with other members to increase chances for survival.
Methods of communication include vocal, visual, and olfactory (smell) cues. These cues are utilized individually, or in some cases in combination, to reinforce a particular response.
When deer detect a potential threat all of their senses are directed toward that area of concern. The deer assumes what is called a stereotypic alert posture. This posture includes the cocking forward of both ears and erection of the hair, particularly along the back. The deer is then immediately prepared to either fight or flee. At this time, much the same as in humans, adrenaline is released, which prepares the animal to most efficiently react to the situation. Should the potential threat continue, or if a deer is unsure as to the actual presence of a threat, it will usually stomp a forefoot in an effort to evoke a response from the unknown object. Other deer in the immediate area are then warned of the possibility of danger. The possibility exists in this instance that deer may even be able to communicate by the ground vibrations generated by these foot stomps. Repeated foot stomps readily occur, probably for the same purposes as already mentioned. If or when the threat is identified as danger, deer will erect their tails, providing another cue to other deer of the imminent danger. In addition to the tail-up response, deer will erect the rump and tail hairs providing an immediate cue to flee the area. Mature does will flee the area of danger waving their enormous white flags as they depart. This highly visible flag waving provides a ready reference for her young fawns as they attempt to follow her. whitetail bucks do not seem to be as conspicuous as they flee from an area of danger. Bucks, of course, do give the tail-up warning, but in some instances, immediately lower the tail after giving the cue.
As assorted deer of either sex meet throughout the year, visual communication cues readily display the intentions and social status of the animals. During most of the year, physical contact and especially eye contact is avoided. However, many encounters of deer during the early spring and summer are for the purpose of establishing dominance. When two bucks who have not established this strict order of dominance meet in the early spring/summer, visual cues immediately begin which will terminate in dominance being established. The conflict is usually initiated by one of the bucks initiating an aggressive posture toward the other. If this threatening posture, which is characterized by laying back the ears, erecting hair, and lowering the head, is answered by a similar posture from the threatened buck, a fight usually develops. During this fight both deer rise to their hind feet and maneuver for position. After a few slashes with their forelegs the fight is over.
These fights are not limited solely to bucks. Does also fight after the same routine of threat followed by a corresponding aggressive posture from the threatened doe. Most people think that only bucks fight and then only with their antlers, but both bucks and does have numerous bouts with each other throughout the year. This type of skirmish is usually settled quickly with most of the fighting being done with the hooves. Once dominance is established, sometimes after several of these battles, the deer then quickly recognize each other in relation to their respective position in the pecking order. Harmony can then exist between the members in the herd until an animal, because of age, condition, or other factors, necessitates a change.
With the arrival of fall comes the hardening of antlers, a drying of antler velvet and an increasing number of sparring matches. These sparring matches are little more than bouts of shoving, which assist in confirming rank in the social hierarchy. At the end of many of these bouts a clear winner is not apparent. The two combatants will leisurely stop sparring and begin to browse together as if nothing has occurred. This type of sparring is usually terminated by the arrival of the breeding season.
A similar yet unmistakably different battle takes place between bucks during the rut. The fight begins in much the same manner, but now both animals have hardened, polished antlers and deep seated motives, altering the fighting conditions and stakes for both deer. Bucks are fighting now for territory and dominance, but a different twist raises the stakes: the right to breed the doe(s) in this area. Normally the two bucks exchange threatening glances and at times a sidling, circling and stiff-legged walk, which is followed by a clashing and pushing done with the antlers until the larger or more aggressive buck gains the upper hand. Bucks seldom fight with members of their own group, but occasionally a younger buck will get ambitious or a transient buck will pass through. These battles can be brief or can last for several minutes, depending upon how evenly matched the two deer are. Occasionally the two bucks will lock antlers resulting in the death of both deer. These cases are the exception rather than the usual, since this situation largely requires mature bucks existing in herds with a tight buck/doe ratio. Competition for does is greater in this situation than in a typical deer herd in Mississippi.
During the above-mentioned aggressive behavior between deer, and their visual communication efforts to mutually warn fellow members of potential danger, other cues are being used simultaneously to reinforce the visual cues. These signals are called vocal cues, some of which are anecdotal. Others are simply the sounds deer make to communicate with each other. These vocal cues may certainly be used solely to communicate a response which visual cues may fail to elicit.
Reports vary as to the exact number and purpose of the known deer vocalizations. Some eight stereotypic sounds made by whitetails have been recorded, and behavior unique to the specific call has been described. The foot stomp is certainly another tool (not vocal but auditory) which deer utilize to communicate.
Probably the most commonly heard vocalization by deer is the alert snort. It is almost always preceded by the foot stomp. Mature and yearling deer of both sexes uses the alert snort when imminent danger is detected. Many times deer will escape to the edge of what they consider the danger area and give repeated warning snorts to alert other deer. This vocalization is made with the mouth closed while the deer forcefully expels a single blast of air primarily through the nostrils. Deer in family groups more commonly give alert snorts; members of buck groups rarely give a repeated series of this call.
Deer make another vocalization during times of acute distress. It is commonly referred to as the distress call. This apparently uncontrollable outcry is typically made when a deer is severely distressed, such as during an attack by a predator or when the deer is critically wounded. During our efforts of capturing and tagging deer this response was typically made by deer caught in a net or while they were being handled. Deer of both sexes and all age classes seem to be capable of this vocalization. Much like the snort, other deer are instantaneously and acutely alerted when a deer makes this sound. Apparently, individual deer recognition is possible to members of the family group as this call is made.
Vocalization between does and fawns are also common. Both the fawns and their dam (mother) make vocalizations to find each other when separated. This is one of the sounds commercial deer call manufacturers attempt to emulate. The call can best be described as a low bleat. Bleating intensity by the fawn appears to be related to the response generated from the bleat. If maternal care is not acquired after repeated bleating, intensity greatly increases, and conversely, a mothered fawn rarely bleats. Still another vocalization utilized between doe and fawn is the nursing whine made by the fawn during feeding periods. Maternal bonds are certainly reinforced by this vocalization, but other purposes for the whine may exist as well.
Undeniably, the most talked about sound during recent years is the grunt of bucks made while trailing an estrous doe. Commercial calls imitating this sound, as well as testimonials to the effectiveness of the call, seem to dominate hunter conversation during the rut each year. A dominant buck is apparently challenged by the possibility of another buck “grunting” a doe in his territory and, in many cases, responds accordingly. Females have been detected emitting the grunt as well. The grunt is utilized by does during dominant-subordinate interactions as well as to call fawns and initiate nursing interactions.
Two final vocalizations made by deer of both sexes are the aggressive snort and the snort/wheeze. Deer emit these sounds to challenge other deer either hierarchically or territorially at any time during the year, but especially by males prior to serious fighting associated with the rut. The level of arousal that the deer experiences apparently determines which of these two sounds will be made. The aggressive snort is the more serious of the two.
Substances secreted from several glands on the body of deer enable deer to communicate by scent or olfactory cues. Breeding condition, individual deer recognition, territory marking and possibly even danger are all communicated within a deer herd by scent. The acute ability of deer to apparently recognize differing scents from a variety of sources gives us some clues to the ability of deer to communicate with this medium. There are theories based on relatively valid parametric indicators that deer may in effect be able to detect olfactory signals some one hundred times more acutely than humans.
When the tail and rump hairs are erected during times of imminent danger, deer have been observed to erect the hair surrounding the tarsal glands as well. Other deer in the immediate area are unmistakably alerted as this behavior is displayed. The possibility that scent cues are emitted, which reinforce the presence of danger, certainly is likely.
Tarsal gland activity noticeably fluctuates during the lifetime of a deer as well as during any one year of the life of the animal. In actuality, these darkened patches of thickened hair, located on the inside of each hind leg, are not glands at all since they possess no exterior duct. As a newborn fawn and up to at least several days old, the gland appears, based on human observance, to be virtually scentless. Urination on the tarsal glands by deer of both sexes and all age classes seems to have a major impact on the scent emitted from the gland. Deer engaged in this rub urination hold both hind legs together and rub the tarsal glands together as they urinate over them. During peak breeding activity, the musky odor is clearly perceptible by humans even some distance away from the deer. The tradition that the glands must be removed immediately after the kill, “else the meat will be tainted” continues in many deer camps.
Inter-digital glands located between the toes of deer probably aid deer in individual deer recognition. Upon close inspection when the toes are spread apart, the gland appears as an indentation out of which a yellowish, waxy, ammonia-like scent is emitted. Interestingly, some other ungulates use the foot stomp to release scent cues that warn conspecifics of danger; the possibility may exist with whitetails.
Pre-orbital or lachrymal gland secretions by deer aid in the lubrication and cleansing of the eye. However, bucks are readily observed rubbing this gland on twigs, limbs, and branches during scrape and rub activity. This gland located at the anterior corner of the eye appears as a darkened, hollowed slit. Excretions from this gland tend to smell similar to ammonia and are detectable to humans. The possible message conveyed to other deer as they confront this scent remains a mystery.
The forehead of the buck also has some glandular function. An oily substance produced by this gland is rubbed on twigs and overhanging branches during scrape activity. This is certainly an olfactory cue of some sort to other deer.
A gland of unknown function is the metatarsal. Like the tarsal, no external duct is detectable on this gland-like structure. Theories abound that the gland, when in contact with the ground, may even serve as a sensor that can detect minute vibrations (such as approaching steps) as the deer beds. No discernable substance produced by the gland can be identified.
Another gland, the Jacobs gland, is located on the roof of the mouth of the deer. As in many other hoofed animals, it is used by the buck to detect an estrous female. The buck will extend his neck and chin to a 45-degree angle and will curl back his upper lip and nostrils for some 5 seconds in an activity called “flehmen.” Apparently this effort intensifies olfactory stimulus and enables the buck to monitor scent cues emitted by the doe in her urine prior to and during peak estrous.
We know enough about deer communication by olfactory cues to make us appreciate the vast amount that we have no idea about. Scent cues surely are more important to deer than we are able to identify. We do know that deer rely on visual, vocal, and olfactory cues to communicate, and that the senses used by deer to detect and monitor these behavioral signals are many times more sensitive to the stimuli produced than that of man.
The mystique involving rubs and scrapes will undoubtedly continue for years to come. The following is what we “think” we know about rubs and scrapes. In no way will this information be the definitive guide concerning signpost communication in the deer herd.
A rub is simply a shrub, bush, or tree from which a portion of the bark has been scraped away in a vigorous rubbing action. The bark is removed by the buck repeatedly pushing and scraping his antlers and forehead against the resiliency of the rub object. Differing types of rubs are made for several purposes at varying times. Initially in the late summer-early fall, bucks begin rub activity to remove the dried velvet from the antlers. This process has been observed to take from only a few hours up to several days. Most of the rubs made during this time of the year are small and not very apparent as visual communication cues. These rubs have been appropriately called “low visibility rubs.” As the breeding season approaches bucks begin to more vigorously debark the trees and shrubs on which the rubs are made. A greater amount of the bark is removed as the bucks “spar” with the resilient saplings and trees. We notice bucks regularly marking these high visibility rubs with secretions from the glandular area on the forehead. Other deer of both sexes take notice of the rubs but do not react in a detectable (to humans) manner.
As noticed by most hunters, there seems to be some correlation between the size tree that the buck rubs and antler size of the buck making the rub. Bucks also seem to select trees that have an aromatic quality. Pine, cedar, and apple are good examples of this apparent selection. Bark from these and other trees that deer prefer to rub are even odoriferous to humans.
A scrape may be defined as a circular depression from which all debris has been pawed, some 3-6 feet under an overhanging limb or branch. The limb is marked with saliva (mouthed) and by glandular secretions from the forehead of the buck as he rubs his forehead and antlers through the leaves on the limb. Bucks may or may not rub-urinate in the scrape as the initial scrape is established or as he freshens the scrape at some irregular interval during the breeding season. Scraping activity by dominant bucks markedly increases just prior to and during the breeding season or rut. Scraping intensity is observed by hunters to greatly fluctuate during some years due to a variety of unknown factors.
Researchers have found that only dominant bucks produce a significant number of identifiable scrapes. Most of these scrapes appear to be made in precisely the same spot that a scrape was made 1 year earlier. The scraping activity peaks some 2 weeks prior to the peak in breeding. Immediately after peak breeding, scraping activity declines.
Does visit these scrapes during various periods of their estrous cycle. Olfactory messages are left at the site of the scrape by the doe as she urinates into the scrape and then departs. As routine checks at the scrape are made by the buck, notice is made of the previous visit by the doe, which is then trailed until found. The buck will follow the trail of the doe, keeping his nose close to the ground and emitting the low guttural grunt, which has been previously discussed.
As we begin to think we understand the purpose of the scrape we then observe activity by deer which will not fit the pattern that we have established. To illustrate this, recently we have found that does make scrapes too, and to further complicate matters, they make these scrapes regardless of the breeding season.
The above information reproduced from MSUcares.com, the web site of the Mississippi State University Extension Service
Whitetailed Deer Food Habits
Deer eat a tremendous variety of foods in the wild. These foods are found between the ground level and about 5.5 feet high. We use several terms to categorize food, including forage (all green stuff), fruits (hard and soft), and others. Not all plant species of foods are as desirable or palatable to deer. Some are highly preferred, others are moderately attractive, and some are only eaten when deer are near starvation.
Most wildlife biologists and deer managers agree that white-tailed deer are primarily browsers. Browse as a food category includes the leaves, twig ends, buds, and bark from small hardwood seedlings, shrubs, and woody vines. Browse comprises the bulk of a deer’s diet, but deer do utilize forbs (or weeds) heavily, and they will eat a small amount of native grasses annually.
If deer are to attain good body growth, maintain good body weights, maximize antler development, and maintain high reproduction rates, they must have an abundance of good-quality browse available year round.
Food items eaten by deer in Mississippi vary based on location, season, and availability of preferred foods. We have studied food habits of white-tailed deer in Mississippi extensively through the use of tame deer and stomach content analysis of wild deer.
Following spring green-up, browse is more abundant and of higher quality for deer than at any other time during the year. This abundance continues throughout the growing season in Mississippi. In years with dry summers, the quality of native browse may decline drastically. During late summer and early fall, deer consume the greatest amounts of forage. At this time does are feeding fawns, bucks are growing antlers, and all are preparing for the breeding season and winter months ahead. Browse is at its lowest level of abundance in late winter just prior to spring green-up. During this time quality is also low, and deer can lose significant body weight before spring green-up. Browse lines show up in late winter where deer populations are too high and are visible areas of habitat devoid of most vegetation from the ground level up to 5.5 feet high. Food plantings can be important during the two critical periods of late summer and late winter.
White-tailed deer are opportunists. They are very fond of many other food items when these items are available. Hard mast, like acorns and pecans, are favorites in late fall and early winter during years when mast production occurs. Deer are also fond of many of the soft mast fruits like persimmon, plum, pears, apples, dewberry, blackberry, muscadine, and summer grape to name just a few. Most of the soft mast items are only available for a short period of time during the year.
Fungi (including mushrooms) are probably a much more important item than indicated by our studies since they are so highly nutritious and highly digestible that they pass quickly through the digestive tract and are hard to detect.
Native winter grasses are utilized during January and February more than at any other time of the year. The use of winter grasses decreases as other native plants start to green up in March and April. Planted cereal grains such as rye grass, wheat, and oats are much more palatable and desirable than native grasses.
Stuffing foods are foods deer eat when nothing else is available. These foods may include pine needles, cedar, Southern wax myrtle, and dead leaves.
Tennessee Deer “Rut” & The Best Time To Hunt In Tennessee
The time period for breeding activity and associated breeding behavior is often termed the “rut” for deer and elk. In Tennessee breeding activity is seen from mid October to January. The peak time actual conception occurs is during mid November for the majority of the state with other parts of the state seeing this peak time occurring in early to mid December.
As for hunting in Tennessee, probably the best time to hunt again for most of the state, is in early to mid November. Deer tend to move more immediately prior to peak breeding times thus making the week or so prior to peak conception times the prime time to hunt.
The above information provided by Ben Layton, TWRA Region 3 Biologist & Former Tennessee Deer Project Coordinator
Why Do Mid-Western States Produce Really Big Bucks
The answer is soil and agriculture. Anywhere you see yellow and red on the two maps below is going to produce some great deer. The glaciated soils of the Midwest are astoundingly productive. Rich, black topsoils can be 9 feet deep in some places! The deer are living in the world’s largest and most productive food plot.
There is no genetic difference in antler development potential between mid-western deer and Tennessee deer. Yes, the borealis subspecies of the mid-west does grow much larger in body, but not in antler than our virginianus subspecies. What those mid-western bucks have is unbelievably productive habitat and unlimited high-quality food. Give deer in Tennessee that same situation and they would produce the same antler development as mid-western deer do.
And don’t think the mid-west really has that much of a better buck age structure than Tennessee. Many of those large-antlered mid-western bucks being killed are only 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 years old. There are some of those in Tennessee, but in the poor-quality woodland habitat that predominates in Tennessee, those age bucks just can’t produce the same antler growth.
The actual genetic “potential” for bucks is much, much greater than we ever see produced in the wild. Take away all the stresses of life in the wild, provide unlimited high-quality food and even Tennessee deer would produce whopper antlers.
The short shotgun seasons in many mid-western states are used to protect the total deer population. When you have deer in areas that are 95% open with only small 5-acre woodlots to hide in, driving deer and long-range shooting can seriously affect the deer population.
Length of Whitetail Gestation
Average gestation is 200 days, but can vary by a few days either side. Since the gestation period is fairly set, birth dates varying exactly as much as conception dates. In essence, if deer are breeding over 3 months, births will range over 3 months.
Of course, one thing to watch closely is what is the range for 90-95% of breeding. Even in a healthy herd you will find a few “flier” data points. So the total range of 100% of breeding can be deceiving. For example, in a very balanced herd we’ve worked with, 95% of breeding occurs over a three week time period each year. Yet there are always a couple of weird dates in the mix that kick the range for 100% of breeding out to 2-3 months.
WOW! That was a lot of Info….