It’s April 22nd. Spring has finally arrived all across Minnesota. Snow from last week’s blizzard is 80% gone. Starving whitetails are finally abandoning their thoroughly chewed wintering areas and heading back to their previously established summer home ranges, does trailed by surviving fawns and yearlings, mature bucks alone. All frequently pause along the way to hungrily nibble on this year’s first sprouting green-leafed plants, most abundant, it seems, adjacent to well-traveled roadways. Be watchful for them and slow down as you approach, prepared to suddenly stop. Younger deer don’t realize they can’t outrun speeding cars.
Dark fuzzy knobs (budding antlers) are beginning to form on foreheads of bucks, including buck fawns soon to become yearlings. Bucks that were most dominant last fall are beginning to display aggressive behavior, glaring malevolently at one another with ears sagging and cupped downward. Some rise up on their nimble hind legs to rain thudding blows on one another with their fore-hooves until one is temporarily stunned by a straight shot to its nose.
Last year’s yearlings are in for a surprise upon returning to the home ranges of their mothers, the only home ranges they have ever known. Their very pregnant mothers are going to viciously drive them off their ranges, forcing them to begin searching for first home ranges of their own. Most will wander many miles before finding a suitably-sized range in suitable habitat not claimed by older or more aggressive deer – Nature’s plan to prevent inbreeding.
Once settled in their individual ranges, mature bucks will become hermits, living in small secluded hideaways until they shed velvet from their fully developed antlers about September 1st. Does aren’t that lucky. Within the next few weeks they will give birth to about 85% of this year’s fawns – single fawns, twins and even some triplets. After that, it’s all work for them. Gray wolves will find most fawns in my far north study area by November 1st, after which only about one doe in two will have one fawn.