How to Estimate the Body Size of a Deer

Learning to determine the body size of a deer in the field comes through actual sighting comparisons. Deer sizes range from that of a medium-sized dog to a full-grown mule. Truly big deer, does or bucks, are worthy game and in themselves trophies. In many states doe records are wide open for new entries. A doe exceeding 140 pounds is big anywhere. Bucks exceeding 200 pounds are considered big on the national average. Many such bucks are taken each year in most localities. Does exceeding 150 pounds are rarely recorded. Bigger does are prevalent with some becoming quite large. You may have a record doe if it exceeds 150 pounds field-dressed weight so be sure to check with officials. The current officially recorded largest whitetail buck was taken in Minnesota in 1926. It field-dressed at 402 pounds with a live weight approximated at 511 pounds.

Deer grouped together are easy to size up. The hunter can spot outsized animals through comparison. Single or widely separated deer are more difficult to gauge in size.

Most hunters who take deer to check stations and have them weighed are surprised that they do not weigh more than they actually do. They seem to shrink the longer you look at them. Hang around a check station where scales are available and you will learn a lot about deer size and weight.

What appears to be a large buck may turn out to be a small doe due to the effects of sunlight, shadowing, and cover. On the other hand, what appears to be a small doe may be a large buck. If the size of the animal is important to the hunter, then he should hold off for a better view before taking it.

Generally speaking, the farther north one goes the larger the deer are. Northern sub-species are just normally bigger deer. One would think that longer periods of forage abundance in the warmer climates of the southern regions would produce greater numbers of larger deer than the north, with colder winters and reduced food supplies. This idea holds true, for example, for bass fish. The reason that this is not the case with the whitetail deer is genetic. All the same, there are large deer to be found in the south too, and the rule that larger deer are found in the north has exceptions. Northern deer have been introduced into southern localities. Body size does not necessarily correspond with antler size, so record trophies can come from any part of the continental United States and Canada.

Texas deer rarely exceed 160 pounds in body weight but sport large racks. Texas has the largest population of deer in North America and some of the finest game and land management experts in the world.

During an “acorn year,” when mast production is at a premium, deer gain weight. “Mast” is a term used to describe the forage which is found in sufficient quantities, has high caloric and nutritional qualities for wintering, and is preferred by the deer to fatten up on before the cold weather. The season following an acorn year is generally found to produce better antler growth in subsequent deer.

As a rule a fawn at birth will weigh approximately 7 pounds, 7 ounces as a male, and 5 pounds, 11 ounces as a female. As an adult the average doe will weigh 50 to 120 pounds, and the buck from 57 to 231 pounds.

The same locality can produce 30-pound deer and 300-pound deer, but most often the majority of deer in a given area are nearly the same size.
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