Whitetail Deer Behavior

Hunters and researchers alike are interested in Whitetail deer behavior. This wide-ranging speices is smart, elusive and of social and economic importance. Whitetail are diurnal with a crepuscular bias. This means that undisturbed deer will move both during the day and at night, but primarily in the hours near dusk and dawn. However, When hunted or disturbed on a regular basis, deer may become almost totally noctural. Weather and moon phase are also believed to influence deer behavior and movements.

Whitetail deer are alert animals with sharp senses. Rarely do they miss anything out of place in their environment. Deer are extremely fast and agile, bounding at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, and jumping obstacles as high as 8 feet. Whitetail deer are also good swimmers and often enter large streams and lakes to escape predators or search out better habitat. Their home ranges are generally small, often 600 acres or less, however,bucks may cover several miles during the rut.

The basic social unit is a doe and her fawns, although does have been observed to graze together in herds of more than a hundred individuals when high quality foods were available. Females generally follow their mothers for about two years, but males leave the family group within the first year. Bucks may form transient bachelor groups of two to ten during the summer, but these batchelor herds always break up before the deer breeding season.

Whitetail does are careful to keep their offspring hidden from predators. When foraging, does leave their offspring in dense vegetation for up to four hours at a time. While waiting for the female to return, fawns lay flat on the ground with their necks outstretched. They will hold perfectly still when a predator is nearby, and their spots keep them well camouflaged. Young fawns emit no body odor, and they hold their feces and urine until the mother arrives, at which point she ingests whatever the fawn produces to eliminate any sign of the fawn that predators might detect.

Whitetail Deer Behavior - Sounds and Sight

Whitetail deer are not especially vocal, although young fawns bleat on occasion. Does will also call their young with a bleat. Injured deer utter a loud, hair-raising bawl. Bucks grunt when trailing a doe in estrous. Bucks also emit an occasional deep grunt when fighting. When does in estrous are few and far in-between, bucks clash antlers and push one another around to win the right to breed. Hunters often imitate the antler clashing (rattling) in an attempt to draw out dominant bucks. The alarm snorts of disturbed whitetails are the most commonly heard sounds by humans.

Although a deer's eyesight is very good, and their hearing is also excellent, the primary mode of locating predators is smell. It is estimated that a whitetail deer can smell about 10,000 times better than the average human. For this reason, deer frequently travel with the wind at the rear. This way, the eyes and ears can protect their frontside, while the unfoolable nose can protect their backside. During rut, bucks will usually switch to crosswind travel, allowing them to scent check the maximum amount of area for hot does (does in estrous).

In Fall, bucks actively advertise for mates by marking trails with rubs (where bark is rubbed off trees by antlers), and and by making scrapes (pawed out areas of ground into which they urinate across the glands on their hocks, almost always with an overhanging branch to scent mark by licking and antler base rubbing). The rubs mark their territory to warn other bucks. The scrapes are placed in likely meeting spots for does. A doe that is ready to breed will urinate into the scrape and the buck will then follow her tracks in hopes of a hook up. Countless hours of research have investigated whitetail deer behavior, yet there is much that is still unknown.


White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Whitetail are found from southern Canada to South America. They are an important part of the landscape in all areas where they are found. During summer months deer often use fields and meadows, searching for forbs high in protein, but whitetail deer are primarily browsers. Read more...

Types of Deer for Sale