The rutting, or mating, season for whitetailed deer centers on the month of November. By the end of that month, most does have been bred. In southern Minnesota, about 20 percent of fawn does are bred in late November and into early December.

Most fawns are born in late May and into early June after a gestation of 196 to 213 days. The doe lies down as the birth gets close. Her body strains, and movements aid in her labor. In a normal birth, the forefeet of the fawn appear first, followed quickly by the head. The entire birthing time requires from 10 to 60 minutes.

A doe giving birth the first time will usually have one fawn. From then on twins are common; triplets, fairly common. The weight of a fawn is about 7 pounds at birth.

Mothers vigorously lick their newborn with their rough tongues. This washing process may imprint the doe with the particular odor of her own young, enabling her to distinguish them from other fawns.

A fawn, except for the nursing time, is inactive for its first three or four days. The fawn is further protected by being odorless, or nearly so, in that time. Its spotted coat is great camouflage and allows it to blend into most natural backgrounds.

In addition, the doe stays away as much as possible early on to prevent her own body scent from giving away the fawn’s location. She does return to nurse her young as much as 10 times in a 24-hour period.


Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.