Hunting Whitetail Deer

The whitetail deer is the most sought after game animal in North America. It is also, at the present time, the most widespread deer in the world. Thirty subspecies of the animal are recognized in North and Central America and another eight subspecies in South America. The population of the animals in North America has been estimated at 20 to 25 million. The fact that nearly 11 million hunters pursue them every fall makes them the most popular game in the United States.

While the lifespan of these animals is 11 or 12 years, most do not live that long in the wild. Some die of disease, others are killed by hunters or predators, and others are hit by cars. I have had first-hand experience with the latter. Over a period of 21 months, I hit 4 deer while driving on the highways in southeastern Ohio.

Whitetail deer usually inhabit a relatively small area unless they are forced to travel elsewhere due to harsh weather or other conditions. Long, brutal winters in some of the northern states may force deer to travel 50 miles or more in search of food. In western states, where the habitat is more sprawling, deer have larger home ranges. Another factor affecting deer movement is the density of does in the area, particularly in western states. These deer need to move longer distances to feed, breed, and bed.

Because of the abundance of whitetail deer and the popularity of hunting them, regulation and education have developed to ensure the safety and continuation of the sport. As far back as 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act, also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, was signed into law. It provided funding to buy hunting land, manage wildlife populations, and pay for hunter education programs through a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. At present, 49 U.S. states and all the Canadian provinces have requirements for hunter education courses. Successful completion of the course in one state allows the purchase of a hunting license in the other states and Canada. However, some states do require additional education for hunting with archery, handguns, or muzzleloading equipment.

Through these efforts, hunting is now one of the safest of all outdoor recreational activities. One of the reasons that hunting accidents make front page news is that they are so rare. It is safer than football, baseball, soccer and even golf. Statistically, there is a greater risk of injury while riding in your vehicle going to and returning from your hunting spot than during your hunting pursuit. Make it even safer by obeying all the safety rules presented in the manual used in the hunter education course.