Dispelling myths during Whitetail Fawn Season
If you live anywhere within the massive range of the whitetail deer, there's a great chance that you may lay eyes on a fawn (baby deer) or two during the summer months. May, June, and July represent fawn season when it comes to whitetails.
Does have started giving birth to the small, spotted fawns all across the country. There's a great chance that you have already scrolled across a picture or two on social media. The subsequent comment sections were probably loaded with folks gushing over how cute and innocent the fawn looks.
Yes, even us deer hunters are mesmerized by the cute little things. However, deer hunters are in a unique position to view those fawns, which represent the next generation of our precious natural resources. Our outlook tends to be a lot more realistic, informed, and much less Bambi-inspired than the average person. That doesn't go to say that hunters inherently know more than everyone else when it comes to deer, but we do tend to study up on them a bit more than the average person.
Hunters also spend more time around whitetails than the average person, and that gives us a unique insight into deer behavior. As we work our food plots and begin off-season activities in the field, we have a unique viewpoint of fawning season.
You will surely come across some stories of hunters and other folks saving fawns in distress. You will also come across stories of people going too far thanks to commonly distributed myths regarding whitetail fawns. Thus, we wanted to shed some light on those myths for hunters and non-hunters alike. We certainly encourage you to share this with anyone who may come in contact with a fawn this summer.
Without further delay, let's address some key points and commonly held myths to keep in mind during fawn season.
1. A lonely fawn must be injured or orphaned, so I should help it.
More whitetail fawns have been displaced, harmed, or killed due to the kind of thinking seen in the sentence above than you could possibly imagine. Just take a scroll through your state DNR's web page and you will see an entire section devoted to dispelling this particular line of thought. It's human nature to think that a lonesome infant animal is in danger, but that is far from the case in most scenarios, especially when it comes to whitetail deer.
Fawns are largely spotted alone because it is a doe's natural instinct to avoid contact with humans and other could-be predators. The fawn is staying put because it cannot physically keep up with mom just yet, but it's not abandoned. Does will also leave fawns in hiding while they feed or move nearby, and it is believed that they spend less time with fawns to keep predators away. That is why fawns have spots to help camouflage themselves from predators in early life. They aren't supposed to be out and about until they are about a month old.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that 9 times out of 10 a lonely fawn is not in danger and certainly not orphaned. You're just seeing the natural protocol for deer. More times than not, they do not need our help. It's always best to give the fawn 24 hours without returning to the area. If you return after a day and the fawn is bleating or in obvious distress with no sign of a mother doe, it may be time to think about taking action.
2. Touching a fawn will get it abandoned by its mother.
Let's start by saying that you should avoid touching a fawn whitetail AT ALL COSTS. Human intervention should be a last-ditch effort to save a fawn. Unless you are nearly certain that the mother doe has been killed or the fawn is clearly injured, it's best to let nature take the wheel. With this being said, you won't doom a fawn if you absolutely have to move it. Contrary to popular belief, does will take back fawns with some traces of human scent on them.
Again, touching a whitetail fawn should be the last thing you do. But it would be better to pick that fawn up and move it very close to where you found it instead of running it over with your tractor while farming. If you ever have to make contact with a whitetail fawn, do it with care and try to minimize the human scent you leave on it. Also keep it very close to the original location you found it in. When in doubt, make sure that you only move a fawn if it is in danger of being hit by a vehicle or you can see that the mother was killed.
3. I can "rehab" the fawn and set it free.
If you take anything away from this article, please know that whitetail fawns are not pets by any means. They may look cute, innocent, and at risk of harm sitting there helplessly in the brush, but they are wild animals. Not only is it illegal to house a whitetail fawn without a license in most states and provinces across North America, but you will only hamper a fawn by trying to care for it on your own. It's always best to contact the professionals within your state DNR when you believe that a fawn is in distress. The professionals know how to properly rehab that deer and get it on track to a life in the wild.
4. I should provide food for the fawn.
The theme of nature having things under control continues to develop, but you would be surprised how many folks don't trust Mother Nature. They see the cute little fawn sitting there and figure that it must be hungry. Maybe a little corn would help it out, right? Wrong! Regardless of what you may put out with good intentions, you are likely doing significant harm. Food in the area will only attract predators and bring more attention to the hiding fawn. When in doubt, don't do too much. Mother Nature and the mother doe likely have it under control.
5. This fawn is friendly with humans, so it must be orphaned and in need of help.
This point will be more relevant later in the summer, but it's an important one to acknowledge. As whitetail fawns get their legs beneath them, you will see more cases of young deer approaching humans. I was personally followed by a young fawn in July of 2017 while on a run. Young deer are like young humans. They just don't know any better. That often times equates to overly friendly deer. It may be tempting to snap pictures and make friends with that cute little deer, but you should avoid regular contact as much as possible. We should try our best to leave the natural tendencies of deer untouched.
Let us reiterate the point that we should avoid touching whitetail fawns at all costs. When in doubt, back out. Unless the signs are so blatantly clear that the fawn is in danger and the mother is all but gone, give it some time and try to monitor the situation wisely. That means returning to the fawn as little as possible. Because the more you are around, the less mom will be.
Contrary to what a lot of people out there believe, whitetail deer need absolutely no help in surviving and thriving. Deer are the ultimate survivalists. They adapt and overcome like few other animals.
You aren't the first person to find a lonely fawn and you will not be the last. Don't fall victim to some of the myths and mistakes we discussed here. You can do far more good by stepping back and letting the deer handle their business.
If you stumble across that rare scenario where it's absolutely clear that a fawn needs human assistance, call your local DNR and let them take the lead.
Fawns are the future of deer hunting and we have to do whatever we can to make sure that their survival rates are at adequate levels. Proceed with caution and keep conservation in mind this summer!