Whether you’re a hunter or just a general deer lover, the sight of fawns with their mother is a majestic one. For the general nature lover it’s often just a cute sight, but for those of us who truly love the deer we hunt it’s the beginning of the fantastic circle of life and we may just be looking at something which can grow to be a true legend in our favorite hunting spot.
The Doe’s Cycle
Like most mammals, female deer only go into estrus once a year. This period is generally known as the rut, and it’s when the males will be competing over doe. Hunters know this well, as the normally timid and clever bucks become a bit brash and make mistakes that you won’t see at other times of the year.
After mating, the doe will naturally become pregnant, and they’ll generally carry their young for roughly one hundred and eighty days. In this six month period, the doe will begin to exhibit some changes in their behavior as they prepare to bring their offspring into the world.
The Fawn’s Life
It can be hard to estimate the exact time of year that most fawns are born, it will naturally depend on when the rut was in your area. You can begin to expect the spotted young to show up within six months of the middle of the rutting season.
As all of us know, this varies quite a bit even in relatively close areas. You can expect them primarily from early May through early June in most areas.
Does will usually only have one or two fawns, but three certainly isn’t unheard of.
While they can be quite timid, fawn are easy to recognize by the small white spots on their sides. These give them an extra bit of camouflage to protect themselves from predators, but they disappear quite rapidly as they grow.
Deer fawn are actually scentless for a short time after being born, which helps to hide them from predators and are almost certain to lock up if anything they see as dangerous comes along. This behavior can serve quite well for the small animals, and many predators will pass them by during this period.
The mother will generally stay away from her young except for during feeding time. Within two weeks they’ll be able to begin to eat greenery and within six they will be able to function completely independently although most will remain with their mother until her next set of offspring comes along.
Deer grow quite quickly for such majestic animals, although the rate of growth certainly isn’t unheard of in the animal world. They will generally be fully on their own before they’re even a year old, sometime after their mother gets pregnant. At this point, they’ll truly be deer, not just fawn.
For the most part, you can expect the young to have lost all of their spots by October, although some may take a little bit longer. These late bloomers can generally be assumed to have been born quite late in the season.
Within a year the does will have reached sexual maturity, and in the next season will be ready to begin the cycle anew. Bucks of a year and a half will begin to grow their horns in the same amount of time, although they’ll often be edged out of their first mating season for the most part.
Understanding the Cycle
The cycle of the whitetail deer is both fascinating for animal lovers and of utmost importance for hunters to understand.
The nature of the rut itself means that most fawns will be born within a two week period of each other, the individual variance for the pregnancies is most often less than a week over or under the six months.
The easiest way to determine when the most will be born in the area that you’re using is to calculate from the beginning of the two weeks of “full rut” when almost all does are in estrus. For instance, in South Carolina, the peak of the breeding season will generally be from November 17th to the 30th so you can expect most of the deer to be born in late May.
The whole season in the same area will run through December 13th or so, meaning that there will also be some stragglers born in early June as well.
The lifecycle of the whitetail deer is pretty fascinating, and knowing when the spotted ones are born can be important in predicting their behavior. Even if you’re just looking to see a fawn with their spots, you’ll want to know when the majority of them are born since they’ll be almost indistinguishable from the adults by anything but size within three or four months.