White-tail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Doe and fawnsPhoto © Justin W. Moore

Doe and fawns
Photo © Justin W. Moore

White-tail deer are the most abundant large game species in North America. The whitetail population is largest in Texas, where an estimated three to four million of the deer reside. Their characteristic tails are held erect when fleeing to display the white underside; the rest of their body is reddish-brown in summer and grayish-brown in winter. Fawns less than six months of age have bright white spots scattered on their coats. Adult bucks can attain lengths of over six feet and weight up to three hundred pounds; adult does tend to be smaller.

Like mule deer, white-tail bucks grow a new set of antlers every year, shedding the old ones after the rut (breeding season) is over. Whitetail antlers are comprised of one main beam per antler; in mature bucks, each beam may have three or more tines sprouting from the beam.

White-tails live primarily in wooded and brushy areas, such as the Texas Hill Country. This type of habitat offers good cover, as well as access to a wide variety of food sources, such as: woody plants, shrubs, fruit, and grass. Deer also occasionally damage landscaping and household gardens in suburban areas.

The optimal time to view whitetail deer is during the summer, after the fawns have been born and the bucks are no longer pressured by the biological drive to breed. Abundant throughout the state, whitetails can be seen at most Texas parks.

Three excellent Texas parks for whitetail viewing are the Calliham unit of Choke Canyon State Park, Kerrville-Schreiner Park, and South Llano River State Park in Junction. The deer at Choke Canyon are particularly habituated to humans, due to visitors’ habit of providing deer corn and feed.

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