Deer and everything about them fittingly dominate the month of Thanksgiving. We are certainly blessed and give thanks for their widespread distribution and fairly healthy status in just about every corner of the West Virginia.
However, we can surely do without the major misfortune of colliding with them in our vehicles. That’s especially true since we’re the most likely state for just that to happen. Their peak mating activities and being chased around by hunters makes November a prime month for deer collisions. And yes, we even see several older antlered males that met their maker in that fashion as they were likely scent-trailing seasonable females.
The tempestuous and hormone bolstered seasonal mating peak or “rut” lasts only a few days to weeks of mid to late November in these parts with exceptions, of course. This age old mating ritual is geared toward a likewise peak birthing or swarm attack of newborn fawns roughly seven months later. Predators can only take so many under those circumstances and the vast majority make it through that gauntlet of tooth and claw. In addition, the late May-early June birthing period gives the fawns just enough time to wean, grow a nice hairy coat, then meet the next major challenge, winter.
Just like rabbits and other prey species, they’re lives are “beset by adversity,” to quote one old time wildlife professional. Just jib-jab you say? Then imagine yourself as a fawn to young of the year graduate just out of your spotted coat. You’re barely five months old and being shunned by this doe, your mother, as you try to nurse the last drops of milk in advance of this frightening, low-pressure sensation of a freak weather phenomenon, the Frankenstorm.
Wasn’t late October supposed to be for the warmer Indian summer? A few days later, you’re neck deep in this heavy wet white stuff, snow. You’re cold, hungry and 30 to 50 inches deep in a blanket of it at the Mountain State highlands. Poor things had never even seen such fluffy, white stuff ‘til that monster storm arrived.
But the ground of late October is fairly warm and after a few days, the snow is melting and the bigger deer begin to plod through it, breaking some trails for other deer to follow. Though you had been feeding on succulent grasses before the storm, that food source is now dormant and buried. But low and behold, the ruthless storm portrays a merciful side. It has knocked down, broken or bent limbs, shrubs and trees by the billions. The evidence of it is here, there and everywhere.
At the end of all those billions of tree and shrub limbs are trillions of twig ends or snippets of current year’s growth of maples, oaks and other edible species. Such twig ends or “browse” are also high up on the normal winter menu of whitetails and many are near enough by that they don’t have to expend more energy in getting to them than they get from eating them!
And just when the snow was all but melted, the victuals were good and things were starting to warm up a bit and get back to normal, along comes some 325,000 gun toting, two-legged and smelly creatures into the woods out for venison. It’s just another day of November in the world of the white-tailed deer!