Whitetail Deer Biology

General characteristics of deer

Obviously, proper identification of deer is important for deer hunters. This is particularly true if the hunt that your participants are participating in has restrictions on the age or sex of the animals that are legal to harvest.

Photos, line drawings and videos are the best way to illustrate the age and sex characteristics of deer. Initially, it is recommended to show deer in isolated, obvious situations. However, we also recommend that photos and videos be shown that illustrate deer in the “natural” state where only small portions of the animal are visible or the animal is shown at various angles. These are more likely scenarios seen while hunting.

The state’s hunting regulation pamphlet should be used to illustrate antler restrictions, if applicable.

Photos, line drawings and videos should cover:

  • Bucks (including antler restrictions if in place)
  • Does
  • Fawns

Whitetail behavior

Purposely finding whitetail deer is the essence of deer hunting. While this may seem obvious to you and your instructors, it may not be to your participants.

In fact, for many of your participants, the only whitetail deer they have ever seen have been during chance encounters while driving or fleeting encounters on an evening walk.

Purposely, predicting where a deer will likely travel to, or through, is a skill that may take a lifetime to hone. Unfortunately, you will only be able to introduce the basics during the course. Hopefully, your participants will be able to establish a longer-term mentoring relationship with an experienced deer hunter to help refine their deer hunting education.

Fortunately, the fundamental aspects of deer biology, which in turn drives deer behavior, are relatively straightforward. Recognizing the subtleties of this behavior and applying it in the field often is the difference between a successful hunt and going home empty handed. 

The specifics covered in session should be reinforced during any scheduled field trips to actually scout for deer. 

We recommend that an agency biologist present this section. We also recommend that this same instructor lead that deer-scouting field, if a group trip is planned.

However, it is important to remember that this is not a scientific deer-biology class; it is a class about understanding, and using, deer biology to become a better hunter.

Several key points in deer biology are worth explaining:

Resources

Preview image of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).pdf

White-Tailed Deer

Natural Science Research Laboratory
A relatively small deer with relatively short ears; all major points of the antlers come off the main beam; tail relatively long, broad basally, and white underneath; metatarsal gland small and circul