The Deer Professor: Three's a Crowd

How much meat can you expect from your deer?

Field & Stream Online Editors

Last summer I saw a doe that was accompanied by three fawns. They all seemed to be hers. How common is it for does to have triplets?

Dwight Caines, Bowman, Ind.

Although two fawns are the norm for whitetail deer, reproductive output is tied directly to nutrition and therefore habitat conditions. In poor-quality habitats, many does may only produce single fawns. For example, in some areas where forage is limited in abundance or low in quality, conception rates as low as 1.14 fetuses per adult doe have been reported. When habitat conditions are very good, however, this ratio rises dramatically. As you would expect, it peaks in some of the agricultural regions of the Midwest. One study found the rate to be as high as 2.1 fetuses per adult doe, which would indicate that triplets are not uncommon in these areas. This certainly underscores the importance of harvesting sufficient numbers of does to prevent populations from exceeding the capacity of the range.

Last year I killed a whitetail doe, and I didn't get as much meat back from the butcher as I had expected. How much should a 110-pound field-dressed deer yield?

Dan Coyne, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

A good butchering job of a cleanly killed deer should yield about 45 to 50 percent of the field-dressed weight in boneless, lean meat. Expect about 45 to 55 pounds of venison.

Incidentally, count on a 25 to 30 percent decrease from the whole-carcass weight to the field-dressed weight of your kill, although that might vary by the size of the animal.

These figures depend on where the deer was shot and how efficiently it was butchered. If a deer is hit in the shoulders, or worse yet in the hindquarters, there will be a significant loss of venison. There is also a lot of variability among deer processors, but few can afford the amount of time necessary to glean every bit of available meat from a carcass. I butcher my own deer and therefore can take the time necessary to limit waste and ensure maximum quality control.

Dr. Karl V. Miller is a professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Georgia's D.B. Warnell School of Forest Resources and one of the country's foremost whitetail experts.

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