Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Whitetail Deer

by Clayton Edwards

Whitetail deer are some of the most popular game animals in North America. Whether you’re an avid hunter or just what to know a little more about the species, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten interesting facts about whitetails that you may not know.

10. Whitetail Deer Have Multiple Scent Glands

Whitetail deer have several specialized glands. While most hunters are familiar with the tarsal gland. This small patch of stiff hairs on the inside of the deer’s hind legs emits a powerful scent. Hunters use these glands to lure in deer during the rut. Some companies sell bottled tarsal glands. They’re the most well-known but they can’t do all the scent-spreading on their own.

Salivary glands in the mouth produce saliva. The deer use saliva to leave behind identifying information at scrapes.

The preorbital gland is a small slit near the corner of the deer’s eye. It is a tear duct that helps to lubricate and clean the eyes. At the same time, the tears carry scent information that can be left behind at rubs and scrapes.

The forehead gland’s oily secretions usually stain the forehead of dominant bucks. This liquid is rubbed on trees and branches in the pre-rut.

The interdigital glands are located between a whitetail deer’s toes. This gland releases a yellowish fluid that smells like sour milk. The fluid from this gland helps deer to leave a scent trail behind. With this trail, deer can follow one another.

The metatarsal gland is located on the outside of a deer’s hind legs. It doesn’t spread scent. Instead, it acts as a thermometer and allows the deer to regulate its body temperature.

The deer’s nasal gland makes all of the other scent glands work. Several of the deer’s glands give off scent. On the other hand, the nasal gland helps to boost the animal’s keen sense of smell. The nasal gland secrets a thick mucus that serves two purposes. It keeps the nose and lubricated and helps to trap scent molecules.

9. Deer Have as Many Teeth as Humans

Both whitetail deer and humans have a total of 32 teeth. While humans have a variety of different tooth shapes, deer teeth are made up of molars and premolars. They have no need for sharper teeth because of their diet.

8. Photoperiod Affects the Rut

Contrary to popular opinion, the temperature doesn’t control the rut. Instead, the length of days has the most effect on when the rut starts. As the days start to get shorter, the deer know it is time to start putting on weight and looking for a mate. This change in length of days usually comes before the temperature drops.

7. Antlers Can Show Signs of a Whitetail Deer’s Health

Antlers are so attached to a whitetail deer’s health that just about anything can affect their growth. Something like an injured leg can affect the size or shape of a buck’s antlers. Also, dropping antlers sooner or later than they should can be a sign of disease. A healthy rack means it’s a healthy deer.

6. Deer See Better at Night Than During the Day

A whitetail deer’s eyes are specialized to see better at night. They have more rods than cones which means their eyes take in more light than color. Their eyes also have a retroreflector which increases the amount of light going to their retinas. This helps them move at night and is the reason deer’s eyes shine when hit with light during dark hours.

5. Bucks Don’t Revisit All of Their Rubs

It would be nearly impossible for a buck to revisit all of his rubs. A single buck can make an average of 300-400 rubs in a single season. Most of the time, this is done by older bucks to show dominance over an area and their competition.

4. Antlers Are the Fastest Growing Tissue of Any Mammal

Unlike horns, antlers are not permanent. They actually fall off every spring. It only takes about four months to completely grow back. On average, antlers grow about an inch a day. That’s right, you’ve probably been working on your beard longer than it took the trophy buck to grow his impressive rack.

3. Whitetail Deer are Incredibly Agile

Most hunters know how fast whitetail deer can move. They can go from grazing to gone in no time flat. Some may not realize just how fast they can move, though. Whitetails can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. They can jump ten feet high. What’s most surprising, though, is how well they can swim. Some deer have been seen swimming at around 13 miles an hour.

2. Whitetail Deer Have 310-Degree Line of Sight

Because whitetail deer’s eyes are almost on the side of their head, they have an incredibly wide field of vision. In fact, they can almost see directly behind them. This and their impressive sense of smell is part of what makes them so challenging to hunt.

1. Origin of the Term “Buck”

Have you ever wondered why male deer are called bucks? The term comes from the American frontier. The hide of a male deer was worth one dollar or a buck.

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