Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on June 13, 2017


June column


Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future Ask The Deer Tracker posts can e-mail it to:


Q. – How often does a newborn fawn feed, what prevents it from crying when it is hungry, and how does the mother and fawn know each other when all fawns and does look alike?

B. L. – Erie, PA


A. – A newly born fawn feeds on its mother’s milk that contains 12 percent butterfat called colostrum approximately four-to-six times per 24-hour period. During the first three days of feeding, the fawn gets all of its necessary antibodies from this thick liquid nourishment. A fawn will gain 10 percent of its birth weight during the first week and an additional five percent for each subsequent week thereafter. It is vital that the newborn remain motionless while out of eye-shot of its mother. Inherently, a fawn knows that until summoned by the voice of its mother, it does not move. Unlike human infants, who will cry whenever they are hungry, a fawn, to ensure that predators are not alerted to its position, remains mute. Directly following a feeding, the doe’s udder begins to fill back up with milk, and once it reaches capacity, she begins to feel discomfort and seeks to feed her fawn. Thankfully, the mother knows the distinct, yet faint, scent of her own prodigy. Yet, a fawn will go to any doe that happens to pass, and throughout its first week can imprint on any large mammal, including humans. As each day passes, with increased interactions between mother and fawn, the spotted baby begins to associate the unique smell of its mother.


Q. – When do bucks begin growing their antlers and how long does it take for them to become fully developed?
M. D. – Elizabethtown, PA



A. – Here in the Northeast, antler growth begins with the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 20th. Because each day’s length has now begun to increase, more light is being passed through the animal’s eyes, triggering the pituitary gland located at the base of the deer’s brain. With increased light the gland is activated and begins producing a somatotropic hormone, which is responsible for body, bone and tissue growth. The process starts with bone salts being deposited on the pedicels through a network of blood vessels located beneath the skin. The skin that encases this growing bone is commonly referred to as velvet. While the buck’s antlers are growing, they will be hot to the touch due to the vast amount of these blood vessels located just below the surface of the velvet. Initially, antler growth is slow with the bone only growing a couple of inches during the first month or so, but as May approaches they take on quite a growth spurt. The months of June and July are when the greatest increase in antler development will occur. Antler growth is one of the fastest known forms of tissue growth known to man, with as much as ½ – inch of growth per day. This places a tremendous burden onto the buck’s body as calcium is being robbed from his skeletal system in order to facilitate this.
Although each buck will grow antlers at a different pace, by the first week of August most bucks have finished growing their antlers. They will never appear any larger than they do at this point. By the end of August bucks will begin to peel the velvet revealing their regal crowns.


Q. – When you are faced with crunchy snow conditions, what would be the best way to track a deer, and is this even practical?
B. M. – Worcester, MA



A. – Noisy conditions are never pleasant if you’re hoping to be on the move in the deer woods. All of nature’s children seem to be on high alert at the sound of any two or four-footed beast approaching their position. However, it is possible to sneak within shooting distance of a whitetail. Understand that the animal is a curious creature and as long as you don’t sound like a foot soldier march through the forest, you may catch one in range.
Let me also point out, even at the risk of offending someone’s inflated ego regarding their hunting prowess, that no whitetail, unless approached under just the right ground conditions will ever be surprised by your forthcoming. I have photographed far to many deer that have gone from a relaxed demeanor to one of rigid, cupped ear alertness staring off in another direction for several moments. Despite the fact that I could not hear or see anything coming, they were alert. Before long, the object that had them on alert, usually another deer, would finally materialize from the woods-line.
Therefore, due to these many experiences, I have learned to mimic the cadence of a walking deer no matter what the surface of the forest floor is like. Whitetails walk in uneven steps; therefore I will take three steps and stop. Next move may be seven steps, stopping for a longer period. Then I may alternate to five and then back to three steps before moving again. Depending on the cover and how far I can see will dictate how quickly and how often I move. Although monotonous, this type of movement pattern has proven to be very effective for me.


All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier
© 2017 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.