Whitetail Deer

The whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the most widely distributed and most plentiful big game animal in North America. It lives in the broadest spectrum of habitat. Physically it is the most varied in size. A whitetail buck in the Florida Keys may only weigh 70 pounds and stand 24 inches at the shoulder. A big buck in Saskatchewan may weigh 300 pounds and stand 42 inches at the shoulder. The heaviest whitetail on record weighed 425 pounds. They vary in color from area to area. They also vary with the season. Whitetails shed twice a year. In the spring they are reddish-brown and in the fall they get their winter coat which can vary from bluish to brownish-gray.

Whitetail deer do not have the range of travel of the mule deer. They are more furtive and prefer areas where the cover is closer. When food is available they may stay within less than a square mile area. They travel to and from feeding areas to bedding areas following trails with which they are well familiarized. The bucks live apart from the does, except during breeding season.

Hunting the whitetail in most regions involves intense scouting and preparation. The whitetail may be the most difficult big game animal in North American to hunt and it requires a special kind of hunter to be successful. The hunter must identify the bedding areas, the feeding areas, and the trails that the deer are using to travel between them. Usually several good spots are identified and stands, either on the ground, or in the trees are prepared. These must be well camouflaged and should consider the prevailing wind. As they are generally in heavy cover they must also have shooting lanes cut and trails prepared and marked to and from the stand. These generally have to be usable in the dark. All this must be done without alerting the deer. It is not a simple, or easy task. Stand hunting requires patience, discipline, and mental toughness. The hunter needs to bring enough clothes and gear to be comfortable while sitting for hours in cold and often wet conditions. But he must not bring too much as it is difficult to move into the stand quietly when he has on too many clothes and is carrying too much gear. Experienced stand hunters develop a strict list of the items that they need and have found works for them.

In some southern states an offshoot of traditional close cover stand hunting has developed. Beanfield hunting, as this is called, involves setting up stands at the edge of large open fields. The deer forage into these fields at dawn and dusk. The hunters make long shots across the fields. The rifles used for this hunting tend to be small to mid caliber with overbore cases giving exceptional velocity and flat trajectories. As the distances can be predetermined, phenomenal accuracy can be achieved. Bullets with streamlined profiles and high ballistic coefficients are what is call for with this kind of shooting.