Deer Breeding and Hunting Season
November is breeding season - also called “rut” - for deer. In NH, the white-tail deer population is estimated at 85,000 statewide.
Deer now occupy two social groups: family groups of female “does” with their fawns or in groups of rival male “bucks.”
Deer establish a scent-based chemical landscape during the rut when male territorial behavior peaks. Bucks rub antlers against supple saplings scraping bark from bow-shaped maples or small conifers to remove the antler “velvet” and to deposit scent from forehead glands.
Bucks also kick back leaves and soil to create conspicuous “scrapes” where they urinate while depositing scent from hind leg “hock glands.” Bucks check their scent posts to intercept receptive does or interloping males. When a doe in estrus visits established scrapes, bucks intersect her trail and pursue her with near blind abandon. By November, dominant bucks compete to mate with multiple does while driving rivals from their territory.
Breeding ends in December. Bucks shed antlers in January. After a 6.5 month gestation, fawns are born by early June and remain with does until the following spring.
Wildlife biologists use estimates of population density to set regional hunting seasons. The “winter severity index” varies according to days last winter with deep snow. Shorter doe hunting seasons allow populations to recover after a severe winter. Of the state’s 18 deer management zones, only 6 are open to taking does this year. “Antlered-only” rules apply to the rest.
Last year roughly 1/3 of the 9,800 deer taken were does and 2/3 were bucks during the hunt which culled 11% of the State’s deer population.