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Home >> Hunting >> Deer >> Habitat << Back

Deer Habitat

Pine Tree Plantations | Swamps | Woodlots & Ridges | Plains

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The whitetail's amazing adaptability allows it to live in virtually every region and climate of North America. Naturally, deer behavior differs slightly from region to region.

The early and ongoing colonization of America did little to diminish the whitetail's presence. To the contrary, it helped increase and broaden deer populations. Before colonization, our forests were large, dense and contiguous. As humans cleared the land, deer moved into diverse new habitats and flourished. Deer fed and mated in open fields and cutovers. Nearby woodlands provided cover and warmth. Today, as the sub-urbanization of America continues, whitetail herds continue to grow and thrive in small, broken habitats.


Deer usually inhabit a relatively small home range, until harsh weather conditions force them to temporarily move elsewhere. Thus, deer in northern states have larger home ranges, since the winters are often long and brutal. Some northern deer travel 50 miles or more to suitable winter ranger. Weather is not the only factor that impacts on a herd's home range. For example, most whitetails in Colorado or Kansas have larger home ranges than deer in Virginia or Alabama. Out West, the habitat is more sprawling and open and the doe densities are not as high as in the Southeastern states. Thus, western deer are forced to move longer distances to feed, bed and breed.


An interesting example of the whitetail's great adaptability is Fire Island, New York. This once secluded place is now a popular tourist beach. Without any predators left on the island, deer roam the beach alongside sunbathers, free of worry.

Pine Tree Plantations Pine plantations are found across the U.S. and especially in the Southeast. They consist of 25 or more acres of planted or naturally growing conifer trees. Conifers, which keep their leaves year-round, provide deer with good cover, especially in winter. They break the wind and provide a warm bedding area. Deer have been known feed on pinecones, though they are hardly a preferred food.

Although pines trees don't lose their leaves, they do shed them, and the floor of a plantation becomes a thick bed of brown needles. It is a great spot for fawns to curl up and hide from predators.

Pine Tree Plantations

Pine tree plantations are located across the US. This consist of large coniferous trees. Coniferous trees are trees which bear cones. Most coniferous trees keep their leaves, or pines, year round. This provides the deer with an ample amount of food, even during the winter. The leaves also provide the deer with shelter, both in the summer and the winter.


Although coniferous trees never lose their leaves, they do shed them. This blankets the forest floor with a thick bed of pines. Deer use this blanket to their advantage. The pines provide a soft bed for the deer to sleep in at night; the deer may also dig into the pines to provide warmth. The bed is also thick enough so that fawns can hide under them when evading a predator.

The pine tree plantations can prove very useful to the deer, especially during the winter months. It is during these months that these coniferous trees give deer added protection, which deciduous trees cannot.

Swamps

In many northern states, cedar and hemlock swamps provide good winter range for whitetails. The swamps provide windbreaks, warmth, cover and woody browse. If not for these areas, many more deer would perish every winter.

Down South, whitetails love swamps and inhabit them year-round. Many species of oak trees, including the pin, post, black and swamp oak, drop acorns in waterlogged habitats. There is generally ample green browse and thick bedding cover nearby. When the pressure of gun season is on, many bucks head for swamps, especially boggy areas inaccessible to hunters.

As suburbia sprawls and developers build more and more homes in rural areas, 20- to 50- to 100-acre woodlots are becoming a common and important whitetail habitat. Woodlots offer food-acorns, honeysuckle and the like-and bedding cover. In areas with crop fields or food plots, deer stage in woodlots before moving out to feed in fields in the evenings. Bucks often use 5 or 6 woodlots scattered across their home range, hopping back and forth to feed, bed, elude predators and find does during the rut.

From New York to Mississippi to Wisconsin, ridges are a key element of whitetail habitat. Ridges grow oak, beechnut, persimmon and other mast trees. Bucks love to bed on ridge sides, flats or points where the wind is predictable, and where they might see danger approaching from below. Deer travel down and around the points of ridges and through nearby draws and saddles; all these areas are good funnels to hunt.

Woodlots & Ridges

As suburbia sprawls and developers build more and more homes in rural areas, 20- to 50- to 100-acre woodlots are becoming a common and important whitetail habitat. Woodlots offer food-acorns, honeysuckle and the like-and bedding cover. In areas with crop fields or food plots, deer stage in woodlots before moving out to feed in fields in the evenings. Bucks often use 5 or 6 woodlots scattered across their home range, hopping back and forth to feed, bed, elude predators and find does during the rut.

From New York to Mississippi to Wisconsin, ridges are a key element of whitetail habitat. Ridges grow oak, beechnut, persimmon and other mast trees. Bucks love to bed on ridge sides, flats or points where the wind is predictable, and where they might see danger approaching from below. Deer travel down and around the points of ridges and through nearby draws and saddles; all these areas are good funnels to hunt.

Plains

Plains from the Texas Panhandle to eastern Colorado to the Dakotas are wide open and flat or gently rolling. Many areas are ideal farming and provide corn, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat. Deer feed heavily on these crops, especially in fall and winter. Cover is scant on the plains, often limited to woodlots and small patches and strips of timber and brush. Deer travel grass-lined draws and gullies between the feeding and bedding areas.

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