I thought Id' run a series of articles on White-tailed Deer, since it is why several of my readers have logged on to this blog. This series will run intermittently from now until the deer hunting season opens. Hopefully it will help some of you in your hunting efforts this fall. I've spent 10 years researching whitetails, and twice that long hunting them.

This article is an excerpt from the book "The Complete Whiteatil Addict's Manual", b y T.R. Michels

The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the most populous of America's deer species. There are 30 recognized subspecies of whitetails occurring in North, Central and South America, with 17 subspecies in the United States. Five of these subspecies are limited populations on islands off the southeastern coastal regions. Whitetails inhabit all of the lower 48 states; with limited populations in Nevada, Utah and California. They also inhabit all of the Canadian Provinces except the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. They inhabit all of Central America, with the exception of the Baja Peninsula. They also inhabit the northern areas of South America.

The whitetails of North America range in size from the large Northern woodland (O. v. borealis), Dakota (O. v. dakotensis), Northwest (O. v. ochrorus) subspecies of the northern states and Canada; to the small Florida Key (O. v. clavium) of the Florida Keys, Carmen Mountains or Fantail (O. v. carmenis) and the Coues (O. v. couesi) subspecies of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. The Columbian (O. v. leucurus) of Washington, and the Key (O. v. clavium) subspecies were both on the Endangered Species List in 1989. The largest whitetail ever recorded was shot in 1926 by Carl J. Lenander in Minnesota. It weighed 402 pounds field dressed, with an estimated live weight of 511 pounds. Several deer with live weights estimated in excess of 400 pounds have come from Iowa, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin.



The whitetail is primarily an animal of deciduous hardwood forests, preferring secluded wooded areas as security and daytime core areas and bedding sites. However, they have adapted to coniferous zones in the southeast, north and west; swamps of the southeast, south and north; prairie regions in the south and west; agricultural lands; and suburban habitat and metropolitan areas.


All deer species belong to the Suborder Ruminatia, which means they are ruminants, they eat their food and store it in one of their stomachs, and later regurgitate it and chew their cud to continue digestion. The result of this is that they feed heavily for a couple of hours in the morning or evening, and generally lie down to chew their cud later. Deer are considered browsers; animals that eat forbes, herbs, and shoots and small branches of woody plants. They also eat grasses, sedges, fruits of wild and domestic plants and vegetables; and new growth leaves, stems, and grains of agricultural crops. They take advantage of any abundant crop in their area but often use several different food sources daily.

Acorns are a preferred whitetail food source wherever they are found. There are two types of oaks; white and red. Deer prefer white oak acorns, which are sweeter and are produced every year. Red oak acorns are produced every two years. White oaks generally drop their acorns first, as early as late August. In dry years north and east facing slopes receive the most moisture and the trees there produce the best acorn crops. Oaks at the tops of ridges usually drop their acorns first and are the first to be used. Deer prefer freshly dropped acorns over insect infested acorns, which are easily noticed by the small hole in the shell. Deer that eat 11/2 pounds of acorns a day per 100 pounds of body weight can easily survive a 90-day winter.

Deer feed heavily on standing corn, especially when it is ripe. In areas with limited cover deer often bed in fields of corn. When eating corn deer pull the ear from the stalk and east most of it; squirrels and raccoons may eat only the tips and usually leave the ear on the stalk. Deer often take an ear of corn with them as they leave the field. Numerous ears of corn in wooded areas indicate a deer-bedding site.

Once green grasses and forbs lose their chlorophyll deer begin to browse. Stems and newly developed leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs (sumac, red osier, maple, ash, hazel, alder, aspen and willow) are eaten. New growth on evergreens, especially cedars, and tops of any new fallen trees are favorite foods. 

Social Structure

The deer herds in each area are usually made up of a doe and her female offspring, and their female offspring, etc. As long as there is available habitat, and there is not a lot of competition for home ranges, the young females usually remain in the area where they were born. With death from natural causes and hunting there are often available home ranges for the young deer to occupy. Individual deer may defend their home ranges, but any one group of deer does not defend the habitat. The deer in these areas do not move as a unit, nor does the action of one deer determine the actions of the other, therefore the herd does not act as a cohesive unit.

Both bucks and does may make excursions outside their home ranges, but they usually do so only to find a new home range, or during the rut. One and a half year old bucks are generally driven off the home range by their mothers when they are, usually before the rut. However, some young bucks may stay on their mother's home range until their second year, when they leave to find their own home range. These young bucks often end up on home ranges in less preferred habitat. There is generally little interaction between individual non-migratory deer herds because of the physical constraints of the habitat, and because newcomers are unknown and rarely accepted.

God bless and enjoy the Great Outdoors,




If you have qestions, you can ask here, or e-mail me direct at TRMichels@yahoo.com

The Complete Whitetil Addict's Manual is only avaialabe in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog at www.TRMichels.com

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