Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on June 26, 2012


June issue


Editor’s note: One week each month we will run the, Ask The Deer Tracker post. Anyone wishing to send a question for future posts can e-mail it to:

Q – What is the approximate time it takes a doe to birth her fawn and when in the spring does this routinely happen?

                                                                                                                         B.A. – Meredith, NH

A – A female deer can actually be in labor from 24 – 48 hours. Like human expectant mothers, the duration of the labor process fluctuates for each individual doe. Once birthing begins she will frequently rise and bed as the fawn begins its descent down the birth canal. The first visible clue to her fawn’s arrival is with the emergence of the neonate’s front hooves.

Appearing next will be the fawn’s head. At this point the doe will aggressively push, grunt and strain to get the infant’s shoulders out. Once this is accomplished – no small task as the forequarters of the fawn is the widest point – the rest of the fawn will easily slide out by its own weight.

Within seconds of her fawn hitting the ground, the doe will direct all of her attention on removing the amniotic sac freeing the fawn’s airway and enabling it to take its first breath of air. As the baby deer begins voluntarily moving, the mother vigorously licks all of the amniotic fluid from its spotted rusty coat. It is not until the fawn is completely cleaned off and is attempting to take its first wobbly steps that the mother begins attending to her own needs. She will reach around with her mouth and pull the remaining placenta from the birth canal and consume it. The doe then will ingest all of the remaining after birth including licking the ground where any fluids were spilled.

This entire process takes approximately 2 hours and fluctuates by only a few scant minutes whether she births triplets, twins or a single fawn.

The timing of spring deliveries is based entirely on when the doe was bred the previous fall. A whitetail doe’s gestation period is between 195 and 202 days. Seventy to eighty percent of each spring’s fawn crop will be birthed during a 14-day period.

Q. – Last fall I shot a buck with a 50 – calibar muzzleloader hitting him high in the chest. The bullet knocked him down, and for a few brief seconds the buck kicked and flailed before regaining his feet and disappearing. The blood trail was sparse before eventually becoming non-existent. How long would you recommend waiting prior to taking up the trail of a wounded deer?                                                                                         – R. S. Mexico, ME


A – The length of time that I allow to elapse before taking up the trail of a wounded beast is largely dependent on shot placement, time of day and conditions. Let me point out a common tendency exercised by far too many hunters once they have hit an animal – lack of restraint. By that, I mean far too often we are so eager to retrieve our prize that unnecessary mistakes are made initially such as, losing sight of from where the shot was taken, where the animal was when the shot was taken and the deer’s immediate reaction following the shot. If you remember nothing else, mark this next statement and mark it well (it just may help you in your next recovery process): The animal will be just as dead when you get to him after composing yourself and assessing the entire situation as he would be with an impetuous rush to recover him.

If I get a deer leaking on snow, it has been my practice to follow up immediately. The white substance facilitates a much easier trail to follow and allows me to push the wounded beast. I’m of the opinion that if I can keep the deer pumping blood through its largest organ at a greater velocity precipitated through panic and increased physical exertion, the quicker he will lose blood and expire.

When on bare ground, I move a lot more methodically with the hope of catching him within rifle range to perform the coup-de-grace.

Q – Although not so pleasant for us, I’ve heard that a wet spring is actually beneficial for whitetails. Is there any truth to this or is it just another one of those proverbial “wives tales”?

                                                                                                                 – O.C. – Bridgeport, CT


A – Springtime is a period of new beginnings; Rainwater helps melt away the snow and greatly influences the resurgence of green plant life. For the whitetail there is no season of the year when the demand for high-energy food is any greater. Does rebounding from winter require this to facilitate carrying healthy fawns to full term. Bucks, who have all but depleted every ounce of body fat, gorge themselves on the first available greenery they can find.

The real bonus to a wet spring, particularly following a mild winter, is the energy the plant life provides. For males, these nutrients are quickly transferred into growing antlers. Any time we are blessed to have an early, wet spring you can count on bigger and better antlers on the bucks come autumn.

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