Say the word “hunting” anywhere in the middle, east, or the southern United States and the first image that springs up in most people’s minds is a whitetail deer. Whitetail deer are native to the entire continent, except in western states.
If you’re east of the Rocky Mountains and hunting deer, odds are good that it’s whitetail. They’re also known as “Virginia Deer,” though that name is almost lost to history. Their fur changes color as well, becoming red/brown in the summer and fading to grey/brown in the winter.
As a general guide to whitetail deer, it would be remiss not to mention Bergmann’s Rule. The rule states that animals grow smaller the closer they are to the equator. That’s why northern hunters are often shocked at the small size of southern whitetail, and vice versa.
Whitetail Deer Guide
How long do Whitetail Live
If you’ve ever killed a whitetail buck with a staggering rack that defies the laws of physics, getting a sense of the animal’s age becomes a point of curiosity. Deer have surprisingly short lives, with does averaging 6 and ½ years and bucks 3 years.
That puts the average lifespan of a wild deer (whitetail) at 4 and ½ years, give or take a few months one way or the other. It’s not an accident that bucks have a shorter lifespan than does. This is true for most species on the planet, including humans.
How Fast can a Whitetail Deer Run
Whitetail deer can get up and move, hitting speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour. What’s even more impressive is that they can swim up to 15mph as well. Deer are prey animals, so they need to move in a hurry.
The acceleration is explosive as well. It doesn’t take but a second or two for a deer to reach maximum speed, and they can do it while turning 180° on a dime.
How High can Whitetail Deer Jump
From a standing position to a full, vertical leap, a whitetail deer can jump between 6’ and 8’ high. With a running start, they can jump as high as 12’. An 8’ fence isn’t likely to keep a whitetail out if it wants in bad enough.
Whitetail is capable of jumping great distances as well. With a running head start, they can reach 30’ across open air before they touch down again.
How Tall is a Whitetail Deer
Bergmann’s rule applies once again in this situation. For that reason, there is quite a disparity in how tall a whitetail can grow. It depends on location and diet, for the most part. Up north, whitetail can reach 94”.
In the south, they can be as small as 41”. Whitetail typically grows taller than that but rarely reaches the proportions they do in the northern regions, especially in Canada.
How to score a Whitetail Deer
Hunters are just like anglers. They are full of stories—like the giant, mythical whitetail buck, the size of a black bear with a 151” rack. Of course, scoring a buck tells the truth as far as that’s concerned, and it’s pretty simple to do.
- Start by measuring the main beam of the antlers
- Measure the “inside” spread between the main beams
- Take tine measurements (typically starting with the brow tine)
- Take the “H” measurements (H1 = smallest circumference between burr first point, then first point and second point)
- Measure the abnormal points
Once you’ve gathered all of your measurements, take a gross score of the length of the main beam, the “spread credit,” tine measurements, and the circumference measurements. Then get the net score by deducting the differences on the tines located on the left.
You also have to deduct the circumference measurements you make on the abnormal tines. You only need the net score if you are looking to get in the record books. For your calculations, use the Boone and Crockett Worksheet.
When do Whitetail Shed their Antlers
Bucks shed their antlers on an annual basis, but it’s not always at a cut-and-dry time. The growth is regulated by the hormones coursing through the buck. During the spring and summer months, the antlers will be covered in a hair-like growth known as “velvet.”
Most of the time, whitetail shed their antlers around January, but they can also do it in February, March, and as late as April. It’s almost always after the rut unless there is something wrong with the deer, like an interruption in hormone levels and melatonin.
How Long are Whitetail Deer Pregnant
Whitetail deer have a relatively short gestation period. Typically, it will last around 196 days. Of course, nothing in nature is quite that precise, it just averages out to that amount of time. However, 196 days is more accurate than not, with a timeline of 193 to 205 days.
The gestation period starts the moment the doe is successfully bred, which usually takes place during the rut between the fall months and late December.
Whitetail are all over the US and Canada, except for the Rockies and anything to the west of them. The farther north you travel, the larger they tend to be. They’re easily the most hunted deer in the country, yet their population levels continue to thrive.
Whitetail are powerful, wicked quick, and have an interesting (if short) life cycle. Depending on the state, hunting season for whitetail averages between three and four months, with archery season getting kick-started a little early.
While they aren’t the most difficult animals to hunt, they do present their challenges and they typically spook pretty easy. They’re terrific jumpers, fast runners, and have frustrated many a patient hunter and will probably continue to do so well into the future.
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