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The history of whitetailed deer in kentucky

The History of White-Tailed Deer in Kentucky

When our ancestors first reached Kentucky they found a

great abundance of game, including deer. Early settlers utilized

deer for food and clothing. Due to all the killing of the white-tail

deer, around 1925 they were virtually eliminated in Kentucky. A

few survived in areas such as, between the Cumberland and

Tennessee rivers in western Kentucky, and a few survived in

eastern Kentucky. In most places, though deer simply no longer


When the deer was on the verge of extension in Kentucky,

the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stepped

in. They tried to save the deer in Kentucky and they succeeded.

They regulated the hunting seasons and the amount of game

allowed to kill. Today we have an abundance of deer in Kentucky,

we have about 450,000 deer.

The white-tailed deer breeding season in Kentucky runs from

October through mid January, reaching its peak in November.

Most fawns are born in June, following a seven month gestation

period. Newborn fawns will weigh about four pounds at birth.

Deer offspring are cared for and may remain with the mother

until the next spring. Fawns retain their spots until mid September

and nurse until mid October. About 40 percent of female fawns

breed during their first autumn, but usually bear only one fawn.

Does breeding at age 1 1/2 or older generally have twins, and

sometimes triplets. By November, Kentucky's deer population

typical increases slightly more than one fawn per doe. Although

many more fawns are born than one per doe, some will die before

the hunting season arrives.

A deer's home range averages about 500 acres. In

mountains, the home range may exceed 1,000 acres. Even though

this size area can support about 40 deer, these animals will not

always stay just within their home range. Many will travel on and

off that amount of land different times of the year looking for the

best food and cover available.

One important key in improving deer numbers is helping

provide ample amounts of the right foods. Healthier deer produce

more offspring. White-tails eat a variety of vegetation, depending

on what is available during different seasons.

In late winter, deer live mainly on woody twig ends and buds

called browse. They will also eat acorns, corn and winter wheat if

available. Spring foods include tender grasses, clovers and leaves

of woody plants such as ragweed, native and cultivated grasses

and clovers. During the fall, deer will use fruits and nuts such as

acorns, persimmons, dogwood berries, corn and browse for a food


Protection from severe weather, predators and illegal hunting

is essential for deer. For this, white-tails must have stands of

forests, thick brushy areas and over grown fields in which to hide

and bed. Deer will not stay in areas that are too open or that offer

them no shelter and refuge.

Age is one of the most critical factors in managing for trophy

deer. White-tailed deer must be at least three and one half years

old before their antlers approach trophy size. Peak antler

development usually occurs between age six and one half and

seven and one half. In Kentucky, however, only 30 percent of

bucks reach two and one half years old, and only nine percent live

and additional year or longer.

Harvest practices that allow bucks to reach older ages can

easily be designed to maximize the potential for trophy size

antlers. The best ways are through taking fewer bucks and

regulating harvest selection. If trophy deer are desired, hunters

must be willing to take antlerless deer. They must also learn to

recognize trophy potential in young bucks and not harvest these

animals before that potential is reached.

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