Deer Biology and Behavior


Breeding occurs from October to January depending on latitude. Peak activity is in November. Does are in heat for 24 hours every 28 days for 2 to 3 consecutive cycles. One buck may inseminate several does. No pairing takes place. Most does breed during their second fall, although on good range up to 30% of the doe fawns (6 months old) will be bred. Gestation is about 202 days. The peak of fawn drop is in May or June. Most reproducing fawns give birth to a single fawn, but adult does typically bear twin fawns. Reproductive potential is very sensitive to nutrition.

Fawns weigh 7 to 8 pounds (3.2 to 3.6 kg) at birth and increase in weight for 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 years. Adult size varies with latitude. In northern states, a mature buck may weigh 200 to 300 pounds (90 to 135 kg). A key deer buck (white-tailed deer subspecies) in Florida may weigh only 50 pounds (22.5 kg). Does average 25% to 40% less than bucks for all subspecies.

Deer are most active in early morning and evening. They have a home range of several hundred acres (ha), but this varies with season, sex, and habitat quality. In northern areas, deer gather in dense cover for the winter. They may move long distances from summer range to a winter yard. Life expectancy is dependent on hunting pressure and regulations. Records show whitetails living 20 years, although 10 to 12 years is noteworthy in the wild.

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