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White Tailed Deer

White Tailed Deer
By:  Leslie Boyd

A white tail deer is a hoofed animal used for centuries as food and sport.  They have an even number of toes on each hoof.  The male deer are called stags, bucks, bulls, or harts.  Female deer are called does, cows, and hinds.  The young are fawns and calves.

Deer have short-furred coats.  They are reddish brown to gray on their back and white on their bellies.  Fawns are covered with white spots that disappear when the new coat of fur is grown.  The normal lifespan is 15 to 20 years.

Deer also grow their antlers in the spring and shed them in the winter.  Only the male deer have antlers.  The antlers are tender and covered with velvety hair at first.  Then the antlers become hard as stone.


A white tail buck’s crowning glory is its antler.  The antlers start growing in March and April.  The antlers appear with a soft coating of blood vessels and nerves called “velvet”.  The growth of the antlers continues until August and September.  Then the velvet is rubbed off, which then shows the hard bone antlers.

The antlers are not used for protection from predators.

The deer’s rack size depends on age, nutritional uptake, and genetics.  By late December through early January, a separation layer forms at the base of the antler, and they fall off.  The process of antler growth and shedding is repeated each year.






Feeding Habits

White tail deer consume about 2 to 4 percent of their live body weight daily in dry matter.  Of course, this varies with the season.  Bucks eat mostly in the spring, and decrease their food intake in the summer.  During the winter, they eat about half their normal amount for spring and summer.  Even when the good food supply is plentiful in fall and winter, bucks may lose 15 to 30 percent of their body weight.  They lose weight during the rut (breeding season).

During the breeding season and in cold weather, adult deer have a great need for high-energy foods.  The acorns are very abundant during this time, but the deer will eat a lot of corn during this time.






The white tail deer’s initial breeding age depends mainly upon its health.  Their breeding season is called “the rut”.  The peak of the rut is usually in November.  A doe is pregnant for approximately 202 days, which is about 6 months and 22 days.  It may vary from 195 to 212 days.  Most does in the major breeding years, which is 2½ to 7½ years.  The doe will have two or more fawns every year.


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