Whitetail deer in Illinois, part 2

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115946154921430.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of www.deerassic.com’, ‘Whitetail deer’);

In the first article on whitetail deer in Illinois, it was noted most of the natural predators of deer (cougars and wolves) are essentially gone now. Think for a moment about how fast the deer herd grows and how much food it takes to sustain those deer. When a young doe is bred, she will usually deliver one 5-pound fawn after about 200 days. After delivery, the doe will lick her newborn clean. About 20 minutes after birth, the fawn will begin to walk on its thin, wobbly legs. Then, the doe will lead her fawn to a new location to escape the birthplace that has been marked with its scent.

The doe will nurse its fawn 5 to 8 times per day and leave the fawn after each feeding. Normally, the doe will stay within 100 yards of the fawn between feedings. If that fawn survives, it may weigh about 70 pounds after one year. That is a phenomenal growth rate!

After a deer is weaned, it may consume 10-12 pounds of food each day. After her first delivery, that doe will usually give birth to twins each year. In habitat where there is really good food, the doe might give birth to triplets. Each doe born then goes through this same pattern.

At the rate of 4,000 pounds of food per deer per year, it takes a lot of apples, acorns, shrubs, bushes, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, clover, lespedeza, ornamental plants, young trees and other plant delicacies to keep a deer content.

The breeding season is called the “rut,” and it usually occurs in mid-November. During the rut, a doe will go into heat for a period of about 30 hours. The Illinois firearm deer-hunting season is scheduled during November to take advantage of increased deer activity. This is when bucks think almost exclusively about finding does.

Some bucks become careless during the rut, and they will do things they would not otherwise do during the rest of the year. A seasoned deer hunter knows that a young buck is one of the easiest animals to bag during the rut because the animal acts stupid in many respects. Older bucks have the same biological impulses, but they also have learned to be more cautious than the young bucks. Some of the largest bucks will even confine their movements to the dark of night. During the day, they might bed down in a secluded place and not move until sundown.

The two primary senses a deer uses to avoid most danger are its sense of smell and its hearing. A deer knows what its normal environment smells like most of the time. If a hunter does everything else right, but still carries with him the odor of deodorant, or scented shampoo, or tobacco products, or something else that is not normally found in the woods, it is unlikely a deer will come near him if the deer smells it. That is a reason the direction of the wind is very important for the hunter to know before he decides where he will be hunting. A smart hunter will locate himself so he is facing the wind.

A pair of size 12 boots will make a lot of noise stomping through the woods crunching limbs and leaves along the way. If the area is dry, and there is no breeze, the sound can be heard by a deer 50 to 100 yards away. In cases like this, deer simply leave the area long before a hunter can see them. That is one reason most hunters in Illinois have better success by finding a location, or “stand,” and staying in that spot all day. More tips about deer hunting will appear in our next article.

This article was provided by the Illinois State Rifle Association. For more information about the association, call 635-3198 or visit


From the Sept. 27-Oct.3, 2006, issue

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