The hardwood forests of Southern Minnesota are home to a variety of woodland creatures, but ruling over them all is the White-Tailed Deer. A top its head sits a crown coveted by hunters all across the states. Well some value this unique feature, others desire the wild meat bestowed upon the animal. However in order to claim your trophy and fill your freezer, you must first step into this creatures arena and conquer the elements, the terrain, and most importantly the animal itself. This is no easy task but with just enough luck and years of experience, his last breath could meet your sigh of relief.
About the Animal
The White-Tailed Deer is native to every county in Minnesota and is one of the most popular animals in the state. They live primarily in the hardwood forests, often near the wide spread agricultural regions of the state. They have the ability to survive the harsh Minnesota winters due to their thick coat and cunning senses. They are classified as bucks and does (male-female) and are the smallest members of the Deer family. Bucks carry a distinct set of antlers and are slightly darker in color especially in the Winter months. When a White Tail senses danger-especially does-they will expose the white underside of their tail to signal to the others. They also stomp their hooves or aggressively blow air out of their nose to serve the same purpose. They are most active during dusk and dawn, often feeding into early morning and bedding
down during the day. Deer are not herd animals but often does spend their time with each other in groups of 4 or 5. Bucks will at most travel with one other Male until the rut starts. They eat a variety of fruits and wild grasses, but in Minnesota survive off of the flourishing agricultural society for most of the year. In the Winter as food becomes scarce they eat twigs and acorns. They also have a stomach that allows them to safely eat this rough and/or sharp vegetation. Their teeth consist of very sharp incisors and very large molars for chewing vegetation. Healthy adult deer do not have any prime predators in Southern Minnesota, but young fawns and older or sick adults can become a coyotes meal in a hurry.
The piercing buzz of your alarm clock stuns you awake, causing you roll out of bed about 2 hours before the sun is set to rise. After quick glance at your phones weather app and a sigh of frustration you slip into your base layers and pull up your wool socks in preparation for a cold Fall Minnesota morning. You grab a quick cup of coffee and throw some snacks in your backpack before grabbing your heavy coat and strapping on your Carhart bibs. As you lace up your boots and let out a yawn and break the seal on the box of your new shotgun slugs. Closing the door behind you the cold breeze stings your face and you begin your track into the woods. A rabbit makes you jump as it darts across the narrow path. “Great” you think as the batteries of your headlamp disappeared rendering you almost blind. About ten minuets in you are sweating under your flannel long underwear as you slid down the bluff towards the river bed. Finally you climb one step at a time up to your stand suspended 15 feet above the forest floor. After you get settled even before the sun begins to rise the cracking of leaves and twigs grabs your attention. A small buck, maybe a year or two old stumbles unknowingly just feet from what could be a deadly situation. Someday he will learn the smells and sounds of hunters and become just as weary of danger as an old buck, but for now you let him pass hoping for a more mature trophy. You pass the time playing Candy Crush on your phone and taking a short nap only to be abruptly woke by a squirrel that really needed that leaf right below your stand. A few more small deer pass and the sun is now high in the air. As you stretch and check the time you decide its time to call it a day. The metal clanks as you scale the old stand’s ladder. A turkey gobbles in the distance, your legs and like noodles from sitting still for so long and you struggle to make it the first few feet. Once your back home you tuck your gear into your old scent locked bag and grab a bite to eat. In a few hours you’ll be back in the stand giving it another shot. Days go by and shotgun season comes to an end, the rut is over but you still slide an arrow into your bow, “just a few more days” you tell yourself “hopefully”. The snow begins to fall, a storm is coming, a six point buck and a doe step within range. you decide its time and draw back on your bow. The arrow flies, the doe drops and the buck springs to a sprint. Its meat in the freezer and the buck gets another year to grow, all you can hope for now is another chance at him next season.
For more on preparing for the season, check out this blog 307 days, Preparing for the Rut
The rut is a deer’s mating season, it affects the buck most directly. Bucks will become zombies during the rut often walking around with their head
hung low aimed at a doe. They begin the rut in late September and it carries on through mid-November. Bucks begin the rut by chasing away any smaller bucks they had been traveling with. They fight bucks for territory in antler to antler combat that may result in death of one or both bucks. They create scraps on trees with their brow tines, and physically their necks grow much thicker. During the rut the bucks sometimes forget to listen to the senses keeping them safe and open themselves up to danger. The rut falls in line with shotgun season in Minnesota causing it to be one of the busiest times of the year for hunters.