When hunting deer, it’s always important to know as much about the animal as possible. This can give you a better understanding of when it’s the right time to hunt, and when it’s not a good time. Of course, understanding the laws in your location for when it’s legal to hunt will be essential. Knowing more about deer, such as how long are deer pregnant, is important, too.
Have a good understanding of the gestation period, the life cycle, and the habits of deer. The more research you do, the better a hunter you will become. Keep in mind that different deer species will have different gestation periods and habits. Know the deer you are trying to hunt.
Seasons will have different effects on deer. For example, it’s important to know that deer are seasonal breeders. This means that they are only going to mate during certain periods of the year. With whitetails, for example, the breeding takes place in the fall. This will be the time that males start to seek out females for breeding. Let’s get a closer look at what happens with the males and females.
What Is Rut?
The male deer, called bucks, have physiological changes that occur as it gets closer to breeding season. They have elevated levels of testosterone, which can make them more aggressive. The buck’s antlers grow as they approach the breeding season, as well.
Rut is the term used for the behavior of bucks when they start to chase does that are in estrus, described below. It’s no coincidence that the rut season occurs in the fall, typically between October and the early part of December with many deer. It can differ somewhat based on the species. Around the end of October, the bucks start to chase the does.
They are ready to challenge other males, so they have a better shot at the does. Hunters find that it’s often easier to find the bucks during rut season because they are out and about. The bucks are on the move trying to get the scent of does. It’s believed that they can smell a doe in estrus at a distance of at least a quarter of a mile.
What Is Estrus?
When the males go into rut, the does are going into estrus. It also starts in October and goes through early December with most species of deer. In some cases, it can go on longer if the doe doesn’t become pregnant. The estrus cycle for an individual female will generally be between 17 and 22 days, but it can vary.
The female deer will generally go into heat for between 24 and 36 hours in the fall. If she doesn’t breed and get pregnant at that time, she will go into heat again about 28 days later. The cycle can continue until she is bred. It’s estimated that around 98% of mature female deer successfully breed each year.
When a buck finds a doe in peak estrus, they may stay with her for only the time it takes to breed before moving on to find another doe. Other times, they could stay with the same doe and continue to breed for several days. If another male approaches the doe when a buck is already there, a fight between the males may ensue.
The sound of the fighting can end up calling in more bucks. They may be trying to take advantage of the other two being busy and not with the doe. This is why many hunters use deer antlers to “rattle”. This can help them to call in some curious or aggressive bucks, so it will be easier to take a shot.
The Difference Between Deer Species
Across the species, there are many similarities between types of deer when it comes to rut, estrus, and gestation. However, there are some important differences you will want to note, as well. Below are some of the most popular species.
Whitetail deer is one of the most popular deer species to hunt. The males grow a new set of antlers each year and shed them about a month after the breeding season.
Depending on where the bucks are located, this might mean shedding around late December or January if rut is over. This is often the case in northern regions. In the Midwest, bucks might keep their antlers until February or even later.
The gestation period for these pregnant doe is about 200 days. When they give birth, the does will typically have between one and three fawns in the spring.
In North America, the deer will mate from October to December, as mentioned. However, in South America, whitetails will not mate until January and February.
Mule deer, which live in many areas in western America, also shed their antlers. They follow a similar pattern to whitetails and will start shedding antlers around January. If there are still does in estrus and the males haven’t bred, they will often keep their antlers until March. Remember, the antlers help them defend from other bucks.
The gestation period for these deer will generally be around 230 days. Mule deer will typically give birth to two fawns. If it is the first time that they are having a fawn, they may only have one.
Fallow deer used to be found only in Europe. However, they’ve been introduced to certain parts of the United States, such as Texas, as well as areas of Asia. These deer will generally only have one fawn in early to late spring. The gestation period for the pregnant doe is about 240 days.
Red deer are found in many European countries and Asia. They can also be found in some areas in North Africa. Most of the time, the males and the females of the species will live separately from one another. During the breeding season, though, they live near one another.
A red doe will be pregnant for around 230 to 240 days. They give birth to between one and three fawns in the late spring. These deer grow a full set of antlers during the winter and the first part of spring and shed velvet by May in most cases. They shed the antlers around November and December.
The roe deer is not found in the United States, but it’s found throughout many parts of Europe. This deer has a long gestation period compared with the other deer on this list—290 days on average. The does will give birth to between one and three fawns in the spring.
Male roe will start growing their antlers in November and shed the velvet from them when spring rolls around. For these deer, summer is the rutting season. After they mate, they will shed their antlers. This usually occurs around October.
What About Other Species?
Above are just some of the popular species of deer. If you are hunting a different species, it will be well worth your time to learn more about when mating season occurs for them. This is invaluable information when you hunt deer.
Let’s look at a short list of deer gestation for other species:
· Reindeer/Caribou – 222 days
· Elk – 240 to 262 days
· Southern Pudu – 210 days
· Sika Deer – 224 days
Keep in mind that these are averages. The exact period of gestation can vary by a few days here and there.
What Is Fawning Season?
This term refers to when the fawns are born. In the case of most species, the fawn season will be in the spring. This is a good time for the baby deer to be born because there tends to be quite a bit of food around, as well as vegetation that can help to keep them hidden.
When the fawns are born, they are essentially helpless and totally dependent on their mother. They will often stay in the same bedding spot for a week after they are born as they start to grow and get their strength. They will be left alone until they are capable of keeping up with their mother when she is out foraging.
Fawns of many species will continue to nurse from their mother until they are about 10 weeks old. After that point, they will be more capable of keeping up with their mother, who will teach them how to forage for food.
The fawns will stay with the does for varying lengths of time depending on the species. However, a rule of thumb is that doe fawns will stay with their mother for up to two years as they grow. Bucks, however, will generally leave after being with their mother for only a year.
How many fawns can a deer have over its lifetime? The males can continue breeding for years and may impregnate scores of does in that time. The number of fawns a doe can have will vary based on her health. In some cases, they may have up to eight in their life. Others might only have three.
Most deer in the wild will only live to be three to five years old. Some, of course, are outliers and could live for up to 10 years or more in the wild. However, this is rare. Being a wild animal means that life is harsh. They have to contend with predators, illness, and sometimes a lack of enough food.
Deer populations can grow quickly, though, and hunters are often needed to help cull the herds. This helps to keep the population to a manageable level, so deer aren’t starving because there isn’t enough food.
What About Hunting Does?
In some locations, it is legal to hunt does rather than just bucks. This might be the case if the deer population is exceptionally high, for example. Typically, hunters will need to have special doe tags if they are hunting the females. When hunting a doe, it is best to hunt during the rut and not in the gestation period. This helps to ensure that the doe is not pregnant when she is taken.
How to Use the Information for Hunting
When you know more about the habits and patterns of your prey, you will find that it can become easier to hunt them. Understanding why and when the males are going into rut in your area will be a huge help, as it often means that it is easier to find deer during this time.
The males are out on the prowl, often playing chase games with the does. It’s instinctual for them, and you can take advantage of this. Start hunting once rut is underway. You can use various hunting techniques since the deer are often more curious and aggressive during this time.
Deer stands can work quite well if you have a good area where does in their estrus period frequent. If you spot an area where does spend a lot of time, you can be sure that at least one buck will come along eventually.
Take the time to learn as much as possible about the bucks and does of your preferred species. Happy hunting!