Late fawns, feeding deer, rut update

It just doesn’t get any easier than catching trout at Venice this time of year.

I took the photograph of the spotted fawn in East Feliciana Parish on Sept. 29, two days before the 2010 bow season opened. This parish is located in Area 1, and on Oct. 1, the vast majority of the fawns in our area are still spotted and nursing.

This is also the case in Area 6, especially in the upper portion of this deer region where fawns are even younger than they are in the Clinton area.

This is the reason that when the bow season opens in Area 6, hunters can only kill antlered bucks. The either-sex season is delayed for two weeks to allow the fawns to get a little older.

Most of the clubs, however, wait until Nov. 1 to shoot adult does so that they do not kill does that are still nursing fawns. This is the reason that I do not get too excited about the deer season come Oct. 1. It is simply not good management to kill does that are taking care of fawns that may not survive without their mothers.

The weather that we had in October was not too inviting either — 85+ degrees during the day just doesn’t get me excited. Most of my time in October is spent scouting for sign and hunting small game and pigs. There is plenty of time for deer hunting, and the outdoor companies make excellent clothing for cold-weather deer hunting, even with a bow.

These fawns that are born in August and September are often referred to as late-born fawns. Now, the gestation period of deer is about 200 days (seven months). The term late-born fawn would seem to apply to one born later than usual and would imply that something is wrong. There is nothing wrong with these deer; based upon breeding studies, the fawns are dropped right on schedule, at the 200-day mark.

When the breeding is done in mid-December, the fawns will be born in mid-July, and will be 2½ months old on Oct. 1. When the breeding is done in mid-January, the fawns will be born in mid-August, and will be 1½ months old on Oct. 1. All of these deer probably still have spots.

Rather than being referred to as late-born fawns, a better term would be fawns born in late summer and early fall. These deer are following the normal breeding and fawning schedule that is dictated by their genetics. The effect of decreasing sunlight (photoperiod) with the whitetail breeding activity is determined by the DNA of the female, and this is not going to change.

During October, I was in DeSoto Parish for several weeks involved with a wildlife project. It was interesting to see the difference in the fawns in an Area 2 parish compared to the fawns in Areas 1 and 6.

The fawns I was seeing already had their winter coats, and the nubs (pedicles) of the males were quite visible. In our area, the male fawns may or may not be showing any pedicle development, even when the gun season opens in November. It was also obvious that the males were larger than their sisters.

These fawns in DeSoto Parish were 4-5 months old, and probably were born in late May and June. The breeding season begins in Area 2 in October and by January is over.

Because of these differences in the breeding season of our Louisiana whitetails, a universal deer season simply does not work, unless the season begins Sept. 1 and ends Feb. 28, which would not work either! I find it interesting that the deer in the real late-breeding regions of the state actually begin their breeding activities after the winter solstice, at the time when the amount of daylight is actually beginning to increase.

During October, I did see a fairly good acorn crop across the state, especially the red oaks such as water oak and cherry bark oak. The sawtooth oak trees in our orchards in Clinton produced an abundant crop of acorns, and this was the most deer sign I have seen yet under these trees. There are some white oak acorns also in Clinton; in fact, some of the white oak trees (Quercus alba) would be rated in the high category regarding mast production.

A good acorn crop generally means that deer can readily find desirable feed and may not use the corn feeders as they would when acorns are not abundant. It also means that deer do not have to travel far to find good food. Add in the corn feeders, and a deer can pretty much find available food throughout their habitat, reducing their need to travel and also reducing the deer sightings of hunters.

During mild weather, most of the movement to the feeders is probably at night, when the temperature is better for moving around. A suggestion to hunters would be to take advantage of the mast crop and hunt it rather than spending money on corn and hunting a feeder. Once the acorns are gone, then start feeding corn.

This is the year that a good green patch with nutritious forage would probably pay-off, but there simply has not been enough rain to make a good green patch. The rain that came in early November will certainly help the food plots for the December hunt days.

I was in DeSoto Parish from Oct. 18-30. I noticed fresh scrapes and rubs during that two-week period, which was the scrape-initiation time for the Area 2 deer. The first peak of scraping and the first peak of breeding should have occurred during that same time period in November. The second peak of scraping and breeding would occur during the last two weeks of December.

These two weeks should be the first breeding peak for our deer in the Clinton area of East Feliciana Parish, and would be the scrape-initiation period for the Upper Area 6 deer. Our second peak of breeding activity and the first peak of breeding activity for the hunters in Upper Area 6 would occur the last two weeks of January.

As I stated earlier, it is a long deer season and there is no need to worry about hunting when the weather and the deer activity level is not right.

A hunter in Area 2 who has not connected with a good adult buck would be messing up by staying inside watching football instead of partaking in some good December deer hunting. December is the last month of breeding for the Area 2 deer, and the big adult bucks are generally out and about in search of the few remaining does that did not breed in November.

About David Moreland 246 Articles
David Moreland is a retired wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in rural East Feliciana Parish.