The whitetail deer is one of the most challenging animals to hunt. Many beginner hunters are not fully aware of deer behavior, making it even harder to spot them. Throw in some inclement weather and differing seasonal adjustments and if you haven’t done your research, your hunt is set up for failure from the get-go.
Deer have certain habits and traits, so if you know them, you’ll be successful out in the field. It’s important to study all aspects of any type of game you plan to hunt, and whitetails are absolutely no different.
Before you grab your gun, read on to get 20 whitetail deer facts for hunters you may or just may not know. Hopefully you find them useful before you embark on your next hunting expedition.
1. It’s Easier to Spot Deer in Certain States
There are roughly a dozen states in the United States where whitetail deer are the official state animal. These whitetail deer hunting havens include:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
It is easy to find deer in many certified gaming areas in those states because of the healthy population. They have spread to other states around the country, as well as various Canadian provinces, too.
There are also other U.S. states where currently whitetail deer bounty is plentiful, such as:
- and Kansas.
Make sure you get the right license before the hunting season starts. Also, take the time to understand local deer hunting laws (some states don’t allow certain weapons to hunt deer like crossbows, or certain rifle calibers) before heading out there. You can check with hunting or wildlife board in any state or province to find the rules for the local area.
Make sure the license covers whitetail deer hunting, too. Some licenses focus on hunting for smaller game mammals. Your license must focus on larger entities like trophy bucks.
Also, keep in mind that in some states whitetails can be found mostly on private lands, such as Kansas and Iowa. So, you’ll maybe need to shell out hundreds of dollars for the license and tags.
Check out the rules on the specific animals to hunt, as well. Some states may not allow you to go after whitetail deer.
2. Deer Coats Change During the Season
The coat on the whitetail deer will vary based on the time of the year. Whether it’s a mature buck or a fawn, it may be reddish-brown during the summer. This turns into a gray-brown coat in the winter. The change in color occurs naturally as the deer’s exposure to the sun grows.
This is to help conceal deer in the environment. The lighter winter coat makes it harder to spot amid the white snow. The reddish-brown color camouflages them against the trees and grasses of the summer and fall seasons. This is one of the best whitetail deer facts for hunters who need help spotting them.
3. Deer Do Well in Cold Conditions
You can find whitetail deer in many snowy conditions. This is because deer have a strong coat that keeps them warm. The hair shaft of the deer has a hollow body, trapping in the warm air. The hair bunches up for even more insulation. The hair produces a solid surface that is tough to penetrate. With this, the body will not lose its heat.
When it snows, the deer coat does not cause the snow to melt. The deer can still hide under the snow, but will remain warm and comfortable. The thick coat makes it important to watch how you shoot at deer.
You must use a more powerful shot during the winter to penetrate through its coat. Bow and arrow hunters need exceptionally sharp arrows and a strong bow that can produce more pressure and force on the arrow, as well.
4. There Are Size Differences Between Males and Females
Male deer weigh much more females. Male whitetails weigh from 100 to 300 pounds on average. A female whitetail doe can be up to 200 pounds in weight. Watch for this when finding a deer to hunt. Depending on where you go, you might not be allowed to hunt the young specimens. You may only be allowed to hunt for bucks.
5. Deer are More Active During Early and Late Times of the Day
A whitetail deer is more likely to search for food during dawn and dusk. These are also times when the sun might be so low in the sky that it is tough for hunters to find them.
6. Deer Can See Much Better at Night
One reason it to hunt whitetail deer in the daytime is that deer see better in the dark than in the day. The eyes of deer have more rods than cones. The rods are responsible for helping eyes see things in dark conditions.
As a result, the deer can see accurately in the evening. They can identify shapes in the dark, too. Meanwhile, the deer do not see as well in the daytime. This makes it easier for hunters to go after the mammal when it is bright out.
7. Deer Can’t See Bright Colors Well
Many bright colors appear as shades of gray to the deer. These shades are easy for the deer to spot at night. But in the daytime, they are tough for the deer to distinguish. This means you can wear orange hunting clothes and deer won’t spot you if you are careful. It’s always a good idea to scout deer with a good trail or game camera.
Orange clothing is best as it is bright and easy to distinguish. This lets other people know where you are during a hunt. It also works since the deer cannot see it well. Green and red are other colors that the deer cannot see well. Wearing clothes that prominently feature green tones works well, but orange is still the best for safety purposes.
8. Newborn Deer Mature Fast
One of the whitetail deer facts for hunters most people don’t know is that it can take a few years for a newborn deer to mature to its adult size. But they quickly learn to walk and move around at a young age. A newborn can stand in about 20 minutes after it is born. Deer can walk for around an hour and do a short run just a day or two after its birth.
Whitetail deer can run at full speed in about five to 15 days after birth. Whitetail deer quickly mature and become active before they reach their full adult size.
9. Deer Eat a Diverse Diet
The foods whitetail deer will eat in the wild are extremely varied. A deer may consume typical grasses and leaves, but it can also eat nuts from trees. Some deer may eat acorns whole, but they typically spit out the shells.
Some fruit and berries are popular among whitetails, as well. Be sure to add fresh fruit to your hunting bag. Extra fruit gives you something that deer might be interested in. The deer’s large body also makes them capable of consuming more fungi and other natural foods without health problems.
A deer can consume mushrooms that might normally be dangerous to people. This requires you to watch carefully over how you prepare the meat from the mammal. Deer are herbivores for the most part. They are not interested in meat, so avoid trying to lure deer with it.
Also, deer work hard at finding the best parts of food to eat. They are highly selective and only go after the freshest food. Do not be surprised if deer refuse any older food or leftovers you leave out. Deer can smell when the food is unappealing or stale. Any mammal that finds unappealing food will refuse it and walk off.
10. Deer Eat Quickly
Deer consume food rather quickly. A deer’s stomach has four chambers. This makes it easier for the deer to consume even the toughest vegetation. Their teeth are also sharp, thus helping them to eat faster. You must be quick on the draw if you are to hunt down a deer that is feeding.
11. Deer Feed Mostly During the Daytime
Deer are more likely to eat during daytime hours. They will look for spaces around 50 to 100 yards in size where they can find large amounts of food. This produces a barrier that you can find deer for a large part of the day. The range should give you an idea of what to find when looking for a deer in such a space.
12. Whitetail Deer Eat a Large Amount of Food Each Day
It should not be tough to lure a deer to an area with enough foliage or fresh food. Deer eat a massive amount of food in a typical day. A deer will eat around eight pounds of food for every 100 pounds of weight daily. Therefore, a 250-pound whitetail buck will eat around 20 pounds of food every day.
The ratio is consistent among males and females. They will require a massive amount of food to make it through any day. Be aware of this when getting your bait ready. You must have a large amount of food to get a deer out there. This is one of the most helpful whitetail deer facts for hunters.
13. Whitetail Deer Live a Long Time in the Wild
One question many hunters often ask involves how long deer live. As it turns out, whitetail deer can live for around 15 to 25 years on average. Deer are more likely to live longer when in captivity. Mature deer are around four to six years of age. That does not mean the deer is old.
It just means that the deer is fully grown and will produce the most meat in a hunt. Also, the doe tends to live longer. The whitetail doe can live for 20 to 25 years. A whitetail buck will live for around 15 to 20 years.
Like with any other animal in the wild, the oldest ones tend to suffer from substantial health issues. Hunting for deer that are around eight to 15 years of age is always best. This is a period where the deer is mature, but will still produce much healthy meat or a sturdy hide.
14. Deer Can Send Messages with Their Tails
The whitetail deer tail is noteworthy for having more than just a distinct color. It also works as a means of transmitting messages to other deer in the area. Here are the ways deer send messages using the tail:
- The tail twitches when the deer is relaxed. This is often a time when the deer is perfect to for hunting.
- A wag or swish of the tail shows the deer is at ease. Such movements may also occur when there are bugs in a certain area.
- A slight flick shows the deer is surprised. Or it may be aware of what is happening in an area.
- A tail at half-mast shows the deer is alert. The deer may be threatened and will be on the lookout for hunters or other common threats.
- A tail all the way up means the deer is ready to run. It is aware of danger and will flee to another location.
These signs are important to look out for when trying to understand when a deer is ready to move. The tail is vital for capturing the mindset of the deer. Look for how the tail is positioned before you go after it. Make sure the tail is in a position suggesting that the deer is not threatened and will not be all that tough to go after at that point.
15. Deer Antlers Show Signs of Health
Look at the antlers before hunting the deer. One of the whitetail deer facts for hunters to look for is how deer antlers change over time. A healthy buck will shed its antlers during the winter season. This is a natural part of what any deer with antlers do.
The antlers break off and grow back during the spring and summer. An unhealthy buck will shed its antlers in the spring and summer seasons. This is a sign you should avoid hunting after that buck. That animal might be diseased to the point where it would be hard to use the meat for any purpose. Do not expect to find antlers in nature.
Although you might think they could be signs that a deer is not too far away, you will not find these antlers with ease. This is because
rodents and other pests devour these parts of the deer before you can get to those antlers. You have to be observant when looking at deer antlers.
16. Deer Prefer to Rest Near Bodies of Water
You can find whitetail deer along the edges of bodies of water. Look near streams, marshes and small lakes. These are areas where deer can rest while drinking water. Watch for these watery areas when looking for places where you can hunt down deer. It’s good to scout these areas from a distance so you don’t alarm any nearby deer.
A deer will consume a large amount of water each day. A 200-pound deer needs around five or six quarts of water in a day. This makes bodies of water important for these mammals to rest close to most of the time.
It does not matter how powerful the body of water in question is, either. The deer you go after will stay close to that body for a while and should not be tempted to leave soon. Look for how well the deer can move in an area. But, make sure you are cautious when going after them in such areas. You don’t want to alert them and have them run off.
17. Deer Often Position Themselves Downwind
When looking for a hunting space, it helps to position yourself downwind of deer. Whitetail deer position themselves downwind from areas that could be potential threats. Deer use their noses to cover the rear to spot anything creeping up from behind. They use their eyes to cover potential threats approaching from the front. This is important to know when positioning yourself.
By using a downwind position, it becomes easier for you to approach a deer from behind. It becomes a challenge for the deer to spot you from behind at this point. However, you must be exceptionally quiet as you get into a downwind position. The deer might quickly notice you if you are too loud when trying to get into position.
18. Deer’s Sense of Smell Can Identify Humans Long After They Leave
Another of the top whitetail deer facts for hunters to watch for is the sensory information that whitetail deer gather. Deer have a powerful sense of smell. They can notice any areas where people have been even a few days after they have left.
If a deer notices the scent near brush of an area, it will stay away from that space. It might take weeks for the deer to return to the same place again. The deer will want to see that the area is no longer occupied by humans or has not been traversed by hunters.
Deer are wary of what is around them and will avoid these areas at all costs if they feel remotely threatened. Make sure you keep a sensible path when hunting. Avoid going to the same place multiple times. A deer might sense where you have been in the past and will actively avoid that place.
19. Deer Mark Their Territory
Deer use their antlers to mark where they have been in the wild. The antlers may scrape along a tree to show others where the deer has been. This is done by a buck to let the doe know where he is located. It may be at times when the buck is ready for mating and wants to get some does in an area.
20. Deer Antlers are a Symbol of Power
The last of these whitetail deer facts for hunters to look at is how buck antlers work. Other deer in a group use them as a symbol of how powerful the buck is. Look at how many bucks congregate in a group. The buck with the largest antlers and the most points is the most powerful in the group. It is that buck that the others will follow the most. Be extremely cautious if you see a sizable group of bucks in an area.
Shooting after that one might cause the other bucks in an area to flee. But, in some cases, the bucks might charge after you as a result. Therefore, you are better off going after individual deer that are far away from the others. Avoid deer that are too close to each other. Any deer that notices a shot could be alarmed and could go after you.
These top 20 whitetail deer facts for hunters should help you find deer anytime of year. No matter where you go deer hunting, you will have the edge over your companions. Deer hunting is not for dummies, so be sure to learn as much as you can. The more you know about these game animals, the more you’ll enjoy your hunt.
This post was originally published on Dec. 11, 2017, and was last updated in July 2020.
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