Healthy Deer Ensure Healthy Fawns I Whitetail Fawn Recruitment
If you know anything about nature, you most likely have come to realize that everything is cyclical. Just as the seasons fade into one another only to repeat twelve months later, so do the life cycles of plants and animals. This is a basic understanding of one of simplest biological processes that occurs in the nature, and something that most elementary school student understands. So why is it important? This cycle of “new replacing the old” is a long evolved critical process. But related to us hunters, it ensures that as hunters, we have plenty of opportunities to chase animals such as whitetail deer during the hunting season. It is a well-documented fact that hunters are also conservationists, and because of this fact many who chase whitetail deer have begun to not only pay close attention to the number of mature bucks and does that they harvest throughout the season, but also how many new whitetail deer fawns are born each year. This process of replacement or increase in the overall population of wildlife including whitetail deer fawns is referred to as whitetail fawn recruitment. More and more whitetail deer hunters are starting to include whitetail fawn recruitment monitoring as part of their overall heard management program.
Does and Whitetail Fawn Recruitment
To really understand whitetail fawn recruitment, you first have to know a little bit about the early life of whitetail deer fawns, starting from conception. You would probably have to look far and wide to find a whitetail deer hunter who was not familiar with the importance of the rut. This is the time of year when big, mature whitetail deer are at their most vulnerable. This is also very important time in the life of a whitetail deer fawn, as this is the time of conception. Peak breeding can vary some depending upon where you are in the Country, however, in the Midwestern States peak breeding typically occurs around November. While the peak breeding period is around this time, it is important to remember that breeding can continue for some time after the peak of the rut.
The gestation period of a whitetail deer fawn is typically right around 200 days, with most fawns being born in the late spring to early summer months. In the Midwest, the month of June is typically the month when the majority of the fawns are born. Prior to being born, does will begin to hone in on foods high and protein and will forage heavily throughout all hours of the day and night, regardless of the weather conditions. During this time does will also begin “running off” their offspring from the previous winter, now referred to as yearlings. Both of these factors will lead to a noticeable increase in deer movement during this time of year, especially during daylight hours.
The number of fawns each doe will have is primarily dependent upon the age of the doe and the overall nutritional state of the doe. If the doe is greater than 1 ½ years of age and resides in an area with plenty of forage then it is probable that she will have twins and sometimes possibly triplets. While some does can have up to four whitetail deer fawns, in areas with good habitat and forage, twins are fairly common. Inversely, if the doe is younger than 1 ½ years in age and/or resides in an area with poor forage quality it may be more likely for her to have only a single whitetail deer fawn.
While everything from landscaping to thick warm season grass fields are fair game to a doe that is preparing to give birth, they typically seek out birthing sites located secluded areas with plenty of cover. Once born, does will typically remove the afterbirth and will often move the fawn not long after birth. Whitetail deer fawns can generally stand within less than an hour from being born and will be able to walk not long after birth. By the third-fourth week of life, the whitetail deer fawn should be able to run fast enough to avoid most predators.
Does will generally stay close to their fawns throughout the early months of their life, with most staying within 100 to 200 yards of their fawns at all times. During the early stages of their life, whitetail deer fawns will rely heavily on their camouflage and will remain bedded almost 90-100% of the time. Fawns will begin nursing from their mother almost immediately, with nursing occurring between 2 and 4 times per day. Nursing sessions will continue to become more frequent as the whitetail deer fawn continues to grow and will sometimes reach ten times per day. Luckily for the mother, whitetail deer fawns will begin to consume vegetation within three weeks of life, however, will continue to nurse periodically throughout the summer until the doe is no longer lactating.
Whitetail deer fawns will typically remain with their mother throughout the winter and spring months, until the doe is preparing to give birth again, at which time she will send last year’s fawns on their way.
Predators and Whitetail Fawn Recruitment
Whitetail deer reproduction and whitetail fawn recruitment is greatly affected by habitat and nutrition. The better the habitat and forage quality is on your property, the higher the whitetail fawn recruitment tends to be. While the reproductive process of a whitetail is about as close as you can come to perfect in the animal kingdom, it is not without its risks. Despite the keen senses of a wary mother and the cryptic camo pattern, many whitetail deer fawns still fall victim to predation, and the number predator of whitetail deer fawns is none other than the coyote.
Managing predators is beginning to gain more and more popularity among not only whitetail deer hunters, but all hunters. From upland game birds, to turkeys and all the way to whitetail deer predator management should be an important part of your overall property management design.
One of the most appealing aspects of managing predators such as coyotes is that it can be rather fun to do, with many different methods of take available to the hunter. Controlling predators such as coyotes can offer a hunter a great outdoor opportunity while all other seasons are closed, while also testing their calling and shooting skills. Controlling coyotes can often provide the hunter with opportunity to take shots at extreme distances and can put the shooter, gun and ammo to the test.
The biggest impact to whitetail fawn recruitment and the overall deer population in general is most often predators. Investing the time to control predators such as coyotes on your property can greatly increase the overall deer quality and provide you with an excellent opportunity to keep pulling the trigger long into the winter.
Improve Whitetail Fawn Recruitment by Improving Nutrition
Aside from managing predators, the number one thing that you can do as part of your whitetail deer management program to help increase whitetail deer fawn recruitment is to manage your nutrition. Understanding deer nutritional recruitments and relating that to factors such as antler growth and whitetail fawn recruitment can truly help make you not only a better deer manager but deer hunter as well. Knowing what a whitetail deer needs at any given time of the year will help guide the habitat management work you are doing to ensure that you have something that a whitetail needs twelve months out of the year. It is simple, the greater the nutrition the greater the overall health of your deer herd, the greater the whitetail deer fawn recruitment and potential is for antler growth.
It is a common misconception that whitetail deer are grazing animals. In reality, whitetail deer are browsers, and while we all may be used to the site of a whole herd of whitetail deer filling a cut corn field every night during the late season, the truth is that whitetail deer require a wide array of food items throughout the year. White-tailed deer will not rely on one single forage throughout any given day, which is why it is critical to ensure that you are managing your property to not only provide supplemental forages such as food plots of annual grains or perennial forages such as clover, but also a wide range of natural forages as well. Woody browse, hard and soft mass, native forbs and broadleaves are a critical component to a deer’s diet and it is important to not overlook these forages when it comes to whitetail fawn recruitment.
A white-tailed deer’s nutritional requirements will change throughout the course of the year. The most physically stressful times being late winter and early summer. This can be attributed to both a lack of food and recovery from the rut during the winter months, as well as the physiological pressures of lactation and antler growth during the summer months. Protein is a critically important part of a whitetail deer’s diet. Protein is involved in everything from everyday activities to antler growth in bucks and lactation in does. This is very important facet to whitetail fawn recruitment. The quality of the milk the does produce can be directly related to the amount of protein available for forage. The high the milk quality is the better condition the whitetail deer fawns will be.
Aside from protein, vitamins and minerals are an important part of a whitetail deer’s diet and should be accounted for when conducting your management activities. In particular, calcium and phosphorus are the two most important minerals that a whitetail deer needs throughout its lifecycle. Ensuring that the whitetail deer on your property are provided with plenty of opportunities to intake these vitamins and minerals will greatly improve their body condition and thereby by improve their ability to rear healthy whitetail deer fawns. While these vitamins and minerals mostly occur naturally in the high quality forages they digest, you can improve the overall opportunities for these vitamins and minerals by providing supplemental minerals or “mineral licks” as they are sometimes called. Products like Big and J Attractants provide the whitetail deer with an ample supply of vitamins, minerals and protein to ensure they are in the best condition possible, helping them to grow bigger racks and producer more deer.
Monitoring and Tracking Whitetail Fawn Recruitment
Probably one of the most overlooked facets of improving the whitetail deer fawn recruitment on your property is to monitor your success. In order to ensure that you are achieving your goal of improving the whitetail deer fawn recruitment on your property, you need to verify your success. Breaking out your Bushnell trail cameras and conducting a trail camera survey can be one of the easiest ways to do this. Most whitetail deer hunters enjoy running trail cameras, and conducting a trail cameras survey during the mid-summer months can help hunters scratch that itch.
Trail camera surveys are relatively simple to run, and can provide you with a wealth of information related to your overall deer herd. The first step is to ensure that you are running the survey at the appropriate time of year. Either pre or post season is the best time to complete a trail camera survey. The second step is to grid your property into sections of 100 acres with each section having one camera station. Each camera should be placed over a baited station and remain there for 14 days. It can be very important to pre-bait each station prior to putting out the cameras, however, be sure to follow the baiting laws in your state. Each station should be marked with a unique number or letter that will help distinguish it for the others. It can be helpful to have the identifier listed either in the picture or on the SD card. Keep corn at the site continuously throughout the period. Set the Bushnell camera to a 5 min delay, and only 1 photo burst as this is the way the survey is conducted for accurate results.
Once 14 days have passed, collect the SD cards and begin reviewing the photos. Record every buck, doe and fawn that you see in each picture. It is appropriate to include known duplicates in your totals, however, do not include a deer that you cannot identify as either a buck, doe or fawn. Once you have tallied your results, it’s time to do a little math. The first step is to determine the number of bucks on your property. To do this, you simply divide the number of unique bucks you have identified, by the number total bucks counted, giving you a population factor. The next step is to take the total number of does counted and multiply it by the population factor from the previous equation. This will give you the total number of does for your farm. Repeat the same process for the total number of fawns.
Once you have this information calculated, you can easily determine the total population of deer on your farm. For whitetail deer fawn recruitment, it is calculated at number of fawns per doe. In this case, this is done by taking the total number of does and number fawns from the previous calculation and multiplying them both by a conversion factor of 1.11 and then dividing the number of fawns by the number of does, giving you the total number of fawns per doe. Number of fawns per doe can vary, however, if you complete your trail camera survey and find yourself sitting at over 1.2 to 1.5 fawns per doe, then you can assume you’re achieving your goal and are successfully recruiting whitetail deer fawns. If you complete your trail camera survey and find yourself sitting at less than a 0.5, then you should probably reevaluate your management activities and consider improving the habitat, forage, nutrition or addressing the predators on your property.
Whitetail fawn recruitment is an important piece of a whitetail deer’s lifecycle; however, it should also be part of your whitetail deer management strategy. If you take the time to ensure that you are providing adequate habitat and nutrition to your deer herd, then you should have plenty of whitetail deer to chase each and every fall!