White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed DeerThere is considerable interest in the aesthetic, economic, and educational values of white-tailed deer, as well as the recreational opportunities they provide. With proper management of both habitat and population, our deer herd will continue to thrive.

While white-tails are adaptable to a wide variety of conditions, good quality food, water, and cover are essential. Forested lands usually provide good habitat except where development, large-scale agriculture, and poor forest management practices have limited cover and food production. Timber harvests can improve habitat quality for deer, if used to create an interspersion of brushland, woodland, and openings.

Deer have a varied diet and will eat practically anything green when necessary but certainly display preferences that seem to be based on nutritional quality. Forests should be manipulated to maintain good quantities of grasses, soft-stemmed plants, fruits, mushrooms, and acorn-producing oaks. Generally, 50% of large forested tracts should be made up of mast-bearing oaks. Woodlands should be thinned to open the overstory and encourage desirable understory vegetation. Thinnings should achieve a basal area density of 50 to 60 square feet per acre. Openings in a forested area encourage the production of preferred food plants and may compensate for yearly and seasonal fluctuations in food supplies, like acorns. Natural openings in forests should be maintained. Openings of one to three acres in size should be created, and be strategically located throughout an area to provide diversity and edge.

  • Allow some openings to grow up in native vegetation, maintained by annual mowing.
  • Plant other openings in annual crops such as corn, cowpeas, grain sorghums, or winter wheat. Prior to planting openings for wildlife, contact a wildlife biologist for specific recommendations.

Cover is necessary for escape, breeding, rearing of young, and rest. Brushy areas, cane thickets, old house sites, and small pockets of dense, volunteer pines provide excellent cover and should be protected from damage during forest management operations. When larger tracts (greater than 20 acres) are clearcut, streamside management zones and connecting corridors should be maintained. Useable cover is not always obvious, so contact a wildlife biologist for specific recommendations while planning forest management operations.

Where food is adequate and deer are generally healthy, a regulated harvest will help maintain that condition and prevent over-use of habitat. Keeping deer in balance with available habitat is not difficult, but a specific recommendation, based on accurate records, is essential. The Deer Management Assistant Program (DMAP) is a program designed to use records of sex, date, antler development, and productivity to create a harvest scheme that will meet your deer management objectives. For further information and a site-specific recommendation, contact your district DGIF wildlife biologist.