More Interesting Facts about Whitetailed Deer

A few days ago, I wrote the first part of this article (with the very snappy title) — Interesting Facts About Whitetail Deer.

The White Fur is Obvious on these Deer in this 'Woodland Splendor' Scene! *

Fur Colors on Whitetails

Last time, I told you that whitetails are always dressed for the weather:  a reddish-brown coat in the spring & summer, and a gray-brown (heavier coat) for the fall and winter.

These coat colors help them hide in plain sight;  they are generally the same color as their surroundings.

We call these deer ‘whitetails’ because of the fur on the underside of their tails.  When they are ‘on alert,’ deer raise their tails.  They show alarm by twitching their tails and racing or bounding away from what scares them.

Whitetails have other white details on their bodies.  There is a ring of white fur around their eyes and a line of white hair between the nose and the face.

They also have touches of white fur in their large ears, under their chin and on the throat.  Deer have white fur bellies and on the inside of their upper legs.

Deer shed their fur twice per year, but grow new antlers each year.  Obviously, good nutrition is critical to do this important work (shedding and growing new fur and antlers).

Antlers by the Season

It is hard to imagine that a buck grows and sheds his antler ‘rack’ each year.  The antlers start as two beams upon which tines (or points) grow.

Looking at the buck above, I believe there are 8 points (3 on the left side and 5 on the right rack).

Deer shed their antlers in the winter (after the rut), and regrow them in the spring.  Thin skin, called velvet, cover the new, tender tines/points.  This velvet is shed before autumn.

Before the Rut

Antlers are an important part of buck’s behavior used in the weeks before the rut (deer mating season). Deer are herding animals and  dominance is determined by fighting.

By looking at these racks, you can imagine that buck fights can become rough.  The winning buck is the dominant animal of the herd and he mates with the most does (when they come into season).

Finally

Generally, most states set hunting season around the time of the rut.  This helps hunters because most bucks have other things on their minds and are not as careful!

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Woodland Splendor‘ used by permission of Vantage Point Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 12:18 am  Comments Off on More Interesting Facts about Whitetailed Deer  
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Interesting Facts About Whitetail Deer

Have you ever wondered why deer eat at night and spend most of the day asleep in their bedding areas?

At Alert: He Senses that Hunters are Near!

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This habit certainly has something to do with wanting to avoid hunters, but the grazing and eating habits also have something to do with their 4  chambered stomachs!

Basic Facts About Whitetails

Whitetail deer roam from Canada to Peru and from the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains to Florida.

Whitetails are in 45 of the 50 states; they are not in:  Alaska, California, Hawaii, Utah and Nevada.  However, their cousins, mule deer and black-tailed deer, are in some of these states.

Wikipedia states that the current population of whitetails (in the US) is about 30 million!

Here in Texas, the 4 million we have are:

  • in the piney woods of east Texas,
  • the hill country in the center of the state,
  • the flat lands of south Texas … and (now)
  • the desert regions of west Texas!

As you can see, whitetails are adaptable to different habitats.  As ‘ruminants,’ these mammals eat plant-based materials.  They soften it in the first stomach, regurgitate it, and re-chew it. (Yum!)

This process is helpful to avoid hunters!  They graze during the night hours, eating as much as they can find.  As light comes over the horizon, whitetails head for their beds, where they doze as their stomachs slowly digest the food.

Depending on where they live, they nosh on seeds, grasses, acorns, corn, berries — and occasionally, folk’s flower beds!

Because these 30 million are running out of room (due to man’s encroaching on their wild lands), whitetails are ‘nuisance animals’ in some areas.   When there isn’t enough food to support the deer population; they help themselves to local gardens and suburban plantings, dumpsters, etc.

Changing Fur

Whitetails always dress for the season!  In the spring and summer, they are reddish-brown.  When the weather cools down, they shed their summer colors and put on their heavier buff-gray-brown coat.

Fawns born in spring-summer, have a coat similar to the adults, with one exception — white spots (a la Bambi).  These spots fade to nothing by the time the fawn is 4 months of age.

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Next Time: More Whitetail Deer info for inquiring minds!

(Whitetail’s antlers, spike deer and the rut)

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‘Autumn Haze’ shown by permission of ClearVue Graphics!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 8:20 am  Comments (1)  
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The Life Cycle of a Whitetail Deer

 

The Rut Draws Everyone's Attention! *

 

Between October and January, male deer start to think of romance. The breeding season is also called “the rut.”  The busiest month is in November.

Breeding Season is Dangerous for Drivers

While the deer are thinking about breeding and baby fawns, they are not paying attention to where they are going.  Most accidents between vehicles and deer happen during the breeding season.

Another cause of accidents is the fact that this summer’s fawns are starting to stray and may wander too close to roadways.

Deer Gestation Period

One or two fawns are born (in May or June) to a doe after a gestation period that ranges between 195 and 212 days.

At birth, these youngsters weigh between 5 and 9 lbs. (or 2.5 to 4 kgs.).  They spend their first days hidden in tall grasses or other safe out-of-the-way-spots, while the doe feeds.

The First Year

Fawns are born reddish-brown with white spots on their backs. They remain this color until the fall of their first year. At that time they take on the coloration of other deer — a gray-brown.

From the age of a few weeks to about 8 months, the fawn is in the constant company of his mother.   Although weaned around 8 months of age, the fawn may stay with the doe for more than a year.

Reaching Maturity

A young deer reaches sexual maturity at about 1 and 1/2 years; while the youngster takes 4 to 5 years to reach full physical maturity.

Deer Info – By the Calendar **

October 21 – January 5  – Most breeding activity takes place

November 12 – Peak of the breeding season

June 29 – Date by which most fawns are born

** from Texas Parks & Wildlife

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* “Dream Team One-on-One” used by permission of Vantage  Point Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website: GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 11:17 am  Comments Off on The Life Cycle of a Whitetail Deer  
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“This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer!” (Sure it is.)

 

whitetaileddeer2sm

Generally: No Rack = No Want!

 

This is the final entry in this series: Shooting spikes while hunting whitetail deer.

What’s Most Important – Nutrition, Genetics or Age?

This is like asking which is more important: the digestive, circulatory or respiratory system? All three are critical to the life of a human. Life cannot be maintained without any one of these processes.

Deer need good genetics, good nutrition and to be of sufficient age to reach their potential. Since ‘a spike is a spike,’ he isn’t going to turn into a 16 point deer with good nutrition and age.

Texas Parks uses a term – “improper harvest.’ In this category, they include “over-harvest of older age class males.”  By making yearling spikes the main goal of a hunter’s aim, it takes pressure off of the older, fully-antlered bucks.

Texas Parks maintains that “by shifting hunting pressure to the bottom segment of the herd, age as well as antler quality can be improved.”

Where the Does Fit in this Plan

Unfortunately, does do not have “I carry spike genes” or “I carry antlered genes” stamped on their foreheads. Besides targeting spike yearlings, Texas P&W suggests, older does should be removed from the gene pool.

By removing these mature does, the balance between food availability and herd size would be stabilized. With more nutrition, there would be fewer fawns – with greater chance of survival.

Deer Management = Quality Deer

Males, because they mate with many does, have more influence on the gentetics of a herd. By removing the young spikes, potentially, more antlered deer join the gene pool. Since the older does (more likely to carry ‘spike genes’) are removed, eventually, the herd will have more antlered deer.

Final Word

Every hunter’s group will have someone tell about the ‘Spike that Grew a Huge Rack.’  They do happen; however, it can take years, and he still carries the spike genes.

Texas P&W says that hunters, by targeting antlered deer, are inadvertently creating more spikes. Why? If the spikes are allowed to grow, they – not the fork-antlered deer – are the breeding stock.  “If you protect fork-antlered yearlings from harvest long enough to allow them to mature, you can improve antler quality in the herd….”

If Texas P&W had their way (laws), I think there would be howls of protest from hunters in Texas. MDH* opines “it ain’t gunna’ happen.”

What do you think? If your state made these rules binding in your state (for x number of years), how would you feel about it?

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This Series:

Part 1: Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-Tailed Deer? (intro & item #1)

Part 2:  Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?  (items #2 thru #7)

Part 3:  What About Spikes While White-tail Deer Hunting?  (Commandments 8 thru 10, conclusions)

Part 4: “This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer! Sure it is.” (Conclusions)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

What About Those Spikes While Whitetail Deer Hunting?

 

whitetaileddeer3sm

Whitetailed Deer

 

Just a reminder: This is third in a series of postings about hunting spikes while whitetail deer hunting. The conclusions highlighted in orange are from the Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Texas A&M University’s Kerr Deer Management Facility was part of this study. The facility has deer from 20 generations, to watch the effects of variables on the evolution of the herd.  These same results were repeated in a Louisiana university study.

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(8) “Even when most bucks are spikes, removing them will not endanger the breeding potential.” Texas Parks and Wildlife researchers have proven that massive removal of spikes does not affect deer production. They’ve shown that a single buck can breed with as many as 40 does in a season.

(9) “Antler development improves with age up to a point.” Amazingly, you can expect antler production to improve until about the age of 6 1/2. After that time, the deer’s teeth deteriorate and older deer don’t intake sufficient nutrition (even in nutrition-rich climes) to develop large racks.

The deer with the best – most dense – antlers are usually between 4 1/2 – 6 1/2 years old.

(10) The best time to manage for genetic improvement is during periods of nutritional stress.  With less food available, it is important to feed breeding deer first – and best. Watch for young antlered bucks and make them your future breeding stock.

~~~What Does This Mean to the Hunter & Landowner?~~~

Harvesting spikes is good for herd development. In fact, they state clearly: “Consistently removing spikes from the herd will eventually improve the antler quality if the range is in good condition.”

A balance must be maintained between numbers of deer and food available. The best way to do that is through harvesting. By selecting young deer with poor antlers, you are allowing  deer with more genetically desirable traits (full antlers) to become the breeding stock.

An Interesting Aside –

According to Texas Parks statistics, hunters snag over 60% of the yearling bucks each year. Of those, about 60% are ‘fork-antlered deer.’

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Come back for the “Conclusion of the Conclusions.” If Texas Parks & Wildlife’s recommendations had any teeth (were law) there would be a howl of protest from hunters.

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This Series:

Part 1: Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-Tailed Deer? (intro & item #1)

Part 2:  Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?  (items #2 thru #7)

Part 3:  What About Spikes While White-tail Deer Hunting?  (Commandments 8 thru 10, conclusions)

Part 4: “This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer! Sure it is.” (Conclusions)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?

 

Whitetailed Deer in Spring

Whitetailed Deer in Spring

 

{This is a continuation of (what I call): “The 10 Commandments of Spike Management” from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. Please note: The intro and Commandment #1 are in Part 1.  These are their conclusions about ‘spike management’ – after considerable study.}

(2) “Nutrition does affect antler growth.” So, no matter what the deer’s ‘genetic potential,’ if there isn’t sufficient nutrition for the deer, antler growth will be affected.

(3) “Early or late birth does not affect antler development if deer receive adequate nutrition.” Essentially, a spike is a spike.  Earlier birthing did not turn a spike into an antlered deer. The only relation between the lateness of birth and antler production seems to be: If the deer is born late in the season, it may be nutritionally deprived because there is less forage. What nutrition is available is diverted to maintain and grow muscles — not antlers.

(4) “The majority of yearling spike bucks will produce smaller antlers and fewer points in following years than will fork-antlered deer.” Basically, they have proven that “what you see is what you’re gunna’ get.” Spikes seem to be a genetic trait that doesn’t improve over the years.

(5) “You can improve a herd by selectively removing inferior antlered deer and allowing the deer with good antlers to breed.” They asked the question: Could they remove the spikes and let the antlered deer reproduce? What would be the result?

By selectively reproducing with more-desirable traited (antlered) deer, something called “heritability” comes into play. The more desirable a trait is – the less likely there will be improvement. Obviously, fully-antlered deer are highly desirable – therefore, removing the spikes will not cause all of the new deer to have antlers. Production of antlers traits are passed from one generation to another, however.

(6) “Does provide half of the genetic potential for antler development.” Since scientists don’t know if a doe carries genes for antlers or spikes, they cannot “select-out” deer with spike genes.

(7) “Average yearling bucks on good range should have six points.” According to their research, with good nutrition, most bucks attain this desirable point. Even poor habitats produce antlered deer. By killing spikes, it allows the antlered deer to reproduce. However, most hunters prefer to haul home deer ‘with racks.’

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This Series:

Part 1: Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-Tailed Deer? (intro & item #1)

Part 2:  Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?  (items #2 thru #7)

Part 3:  What About Spikes While White-tail Deer Hunting?  (Commandments 8 thru 10, conclusions)

Part 4: “This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer! Sure it is.” (Conclusions)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-tailed Deer? **(Part 1)

 

Whitetailed Deer

Whitetailed Deer

 

MDH* brought  this fascinating article to my attention today.

Unfortunately, it is several thousand words long.  I would call it a “white paper” from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Division. (1)

They did their research at  Texas A & M University’s Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Why this is significant is that this facility has over 20 generations of deer.

Cut to the Chase

For those folks who read the last page of a mystery before starting the book, here’s the answer: “Yes, by harvesting spikes early-on, it improves the antler quality of the remaining herd.” However, the story of why this is true is what is so interesting.

What is a ‘Spike?’

So that everyone is on the same page, let’s define a ‘spike.’ Texas Parks sees it as “any deer at least a year old that has two hardened antlers that do not branch or fork.” They are NOT referring to young fawns with “skin covered knobs” called a “nubbin buck.”

They go on to say that, “Buck fawns occasionally have a protrusion of chalky white bone tissue through the skin up to 1/2 inch long, but this is rare and we don’t call them spikes.”

What Hunters Think

There’s controversy about this subject. Many hunters don’t want to kill spikes because they think that poor nutrition is the reason a year-old has no rack. (In other words, their suggestion is – to paraphrase an angler – ‘Throw ’em back and let ’em grow up a bit.”)

Another idea is to shoot older spikes, because genetically, they’ve proved that they are not capable of developing antlers. Their reasoning continues: ‘Save the young spikes, poor nutrition is the reason youngsters didn’t produce a rack this year.’

Texas Park’s Advice on Spikes

This is a direct quote: “If two spikes walk out in front of you in a 2-buck county, shoot the smallest one first and don’t let the second get away.” I was so surprised, I had to read this three times!

Before I go into the “Ten Commandments of Texas Parks Regarding Spikes (my words, not theirs),” let me assure my ambivalent readers that studies in Louisiana have confirmed these findings. Therefore, either the deer in two states are crazy or these findings can be replicated across America — or at least the South.

A Little Thing Called, “Genetic Potential”

(1) “Antler development is genetically based. Not all deer have the same genetic potential.” (conclusions drawn by Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists) Nutrition AND ‘genetic potential’ are necessary for antler development. If either one of these elements is missing, antlers don’t grow. They proved this by allowing spikes to breed with does in pens. There was nutritious food, vitamins, water, etc., yet a high percentage of the offspring were spikes!

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Come back soon:  Commandments #2 thru 7, next time!

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(1) The report I’m referring to is available online, as a pdf document at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_w7000_0247.pdf (It is 6 pages long.)

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* MDH = My Deer Husband, Richard 😉

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com