Deer replenish their populations

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Whitetail deer fawns have made their appearance on our landscape. Many more new births will occur soon as prime time takes place this week and next. Doe deer have a gestation requirement of 6 1/2 to seven months. This follows the typical pattern of prime breeding season of early November for the majority of whitetail deer in the middle to upper Midwest and northern regions of North America. If you see a doe deer with her single or twin fawns, do watch from a distance. If you find a fawn, leave it alone. Do not ‘rescue’ what does not need rescuing.

Whitetailed deer are doing their biological duties of replacing themselves. Each springtime is the normal cycle of all kinds of wildlife having their young.

Warm temperatures have returned, food sources are abundant, and hiding places have also been created by tall grasses, shrubs, or other new forest plant growth. Timing is everything, and Mother Nature knows how to optimize this timing for the greatest benefit for every bird, insect, mammal or reptile.

For newly born deer fawns, finding food is as close as its mother. She will nurse her fawn or fawns periodically during the day or at night. Then she will leave them while she goes about finding green leafy things to eat for herself. When she returns to the area where her fawns were hiding, a soft call will bring the fawn scampering to her for another meal.

Fawns grow fast on a diet of mother’s milk for the first few months, and then a slow natural transition takes place beginning at about three to four weeks of age to nibble at green plant materials. Fawns still rely primarily upon the doe deer’s milk. By the time our new fall season arrives in September and later, fawns will have been successfully transitioned to plant materials.

Fawns are born weighing in at about four to seven pounds. They are 17 to 19 inches long. Eyes are open. Within one hour, they will be standing on wobbly legs and getting oriented to the new world that greets them.

They will recognize their mother by sight and smell. The doe deer also recognizes her fawns primarily by smell, and she knows where she had her fawns go into hiding mode where she left them. The fawns are not unattended as she monitors the area from a distance. Should a predator like a coyote pass too close, the doe deer will attract the attention of the predator and direct it away from her hiding young ones.

The whitetailed deer is our nation’s most abundant wild ungulate. Deer are the most prolific large mammals of North America. They can be found coast to coast and border to border. Range maps clearly depict whitetails living in southern Canada, most states of the USA, and Mexico and Central America. The largest bodied whitetails tend to be found in northern climates.

The further southward the range, the tendency is for body size to become smaller. A perfect example are the small key deer of Florida or in the desert southwest and into Mexico.

Deer are even toed mammals. They have moderately long hair, a summer light weight coat, and a thicker hollow haired coat for winter and colder conditions. Arteries and veins in the legs of deer pass close by each other with blood flow going back to the heart in veins and away from the heart in arteries. Heat is transferred between the vessels of the legs during all times of the year, but especially during winter.

Deer can live over 10 years. However, this is seldom the case in wild free ranging deer. A deer living to be 10 years of age is a rarity even if it was successful in avoiding predators, hiding well during hunting seasons, eating well, and escaping a wide range of health issues that deer can acquire.

Most deer stay healthy, but like any living species, they can catch diseases or become injured. Most humans never see deer in dire conditions of ill health. We tend to see the whitetails flagging away as the deer runs away.

Buck deer are at prime status at age five and six. Their skeletal system is fully mature at the time, and it is those bucks that tend to grow the largest antlers during their lifetime. All male deer are growing new antlers now, a true bony growth from the pedicles of their skull plates. Antlers are nourished via a system of internal and external blood vessels bringing calcium rich minerals to the emerging antlers. Full antler growth will happen by late August and early September.

Then as daylight length begins to shorten substantially, hormone changes cut off blood supply to the antlers. The soft covering on the antlers, called velvet, sloughs off, and the buck will rub his antlers on shrubs, bushes and small trees to rid himself of the velvet.

Come this fall, and as hunting seasons begin again, biologists and wildlife managers will have already assessed how the deer population has rebounded from one year ago. County by county limits and offtake goals will have been established by official rule and commission action. The backbone of deer population management is to know how many must be reduced, both doe and buck deer, in an area or region to accommodate and allow for carrying capacity of those lands.


June is here. Summer season will begin officially on June 21. In the meantime, with our Earth in its orbit around the sun and its axis tilted toward the sun for the northern hemisphere, our day lengths have been getting longer and longer.

June will see a peaking of day lengths. On June 1, the day length was 15 hours and two minutes. On June 30, the day length will be 15 hours and 13 minutes. However, the longest daylight hours will be June 18 – 24 at 15 hours and 15 minutes.

The earliest sunrises during will be from June 9-21 at 5:34 a.m. The latest sunsets will be from June 21-July 3 at 8:50 p.m.

June 3-5 is the designated free fishing weekend for Iowa. No license is required. However, daily take limits still apply. Do check out your favorite fishing spots soon. Crappie and bass are waiting for the right lure in the right place at the right time.

Channel catfish and largemouth bass will spawn on or about June 6 when water temperatures are just right. Water areas will also have singing bullfrogs and tree frogs as they begin laying eggs for new tadpoles. Turtles will begin laying eggs on or about June 11. By month’s end, biologists will begin banding Canada Geese adults and young of the year goslings.

On a historical note, Iowa has some anniversaries to celebrate. On June 16, 1673, Marquette and Joliet paddled their canoe into the Mississippi River near Pikes Peak State Park. Those scenic areas of Iowa’s eastern border still attract visitors to the Mississippi River.

In 1998, an official rainfall event happened near the southwest Iowa town of Atlantic on June 14. A total of 13.18 inches of rain fell that day! Floods happen periodically across Iowa after big rains or prolonged rain events. In 2008, the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids shattered the previous record floods of 1851 and 1929.

Mother Nature rules the earth and the skies. We had best learn how to adapt.


Eagle nest update. Last week, I noted that an eagle nest near the south end of Mormon Ridge and west of the roundhouse, had partially collapsed but was still in the tree. Well, the nest was too heavy, and the branches supporting it became too weak. The nest with its huge assembly of branches fell to the ground.

I have no idea what happened to the young eaglets that were in this nest. The eagle pair will likely rebuild a new nest in the vicinity next spring. Other eagle nests in Marshall County are doing quite well.


Definition to note: procrastifishing — the art of going fishing when you should be doing something else.


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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