The Tough Season for Deer

Winter weeds out weak deer. Fawns not large enough to handle deep snow or compete for limited food won't survive. Whitetails with lingering injuries perish. The old and the weak take their final naps. This is Nature's way; always necessary, but sometimes tough to accept.

The buck pictured above was found by a Wisconsin coyote hunter last week. It's a gorgeous animal, the rack grossing just over 170" B&C. And in my opinion, a buck still shy of his prime. His face is sleek and short, his antlers don't sport the mass and gnarliness of an older buck. I'd guess him as a three or four-year old deer that had plenty of growing to do.

I've found several dead bucks over the years, usually while shed hunting, spring scouting, turkey hunting or trout fishing. Almost all of these deer were lying in or near creek bottoms. One of the classic maneuvers of a sick whitetail is to move toward a water source such as a stream or pond. Some folks theorize that the animal is feverish and the water offers relief. Others simply say that thick cover usually abuts a water source and the deer are seeking that. Both make sense to me.

We're in the midst of another snowstorm here in Minnesota, one of many in this long, cold winter. In the weeks ahead I'll start scouting seriously for next year, and I suppose I'll find a dead deer or two. I'm always a little sad when I do, even when I know its Nature's way.