Deer Hunting: What Fawn-Drop Dates Can Teach You About the Rut

In case you haven’t noticed, newborn fawns are beginning to show up in the woods. Turkey hunters are beginning to report them and before long the woods and fields will be covered with them.

We anxiously await the fawn drop each year, it reminds us of the cycle of nature, lifts our spirits, and allows us to look in the rear view mirror and take another look at last year’s rut. Anytime we come across a newborn fawn we head to the calendar and start counting backward. Last year our rut report called for most of the breeding to occur sometime around Nov. 15, and sure enough, they are appearing on schedule.

The gestation period for a fawn is roughly 200 days (give or take 10 days either way). A doe that is bred and conceives on Nov. 15th will drop her fawn(s) on the last day of May. A fawn dropped May 16 was more than likely conceived on or about Nov. 1. Breeding may have peaked around Nov. 15, but a good bit of breeding (see distribution graph) occurs before and after the peak.

As deer hunter/managers, what interests us most is fawn outliers; fawns that hit the ground in early April or as late as August. These fawns are at a marked disadvantage as far as survival goes at least in the northern most latitudes. Early drops (and their mothers) are subject to severe weather conditions and late drops enter winter as sub-adults with insufficient body mass to survive a hard winter.

Poor management can lead to late-season births. High doe-to-buck ratios (5 does or more per buck), overpopulation, and a lack of mature experienced breeding bucks in the herd can result in a prolonged rut stretching over many months

Happily, Mother Nature has had thousands of years to decide when fawns are best brought into the world and does a good job of delivering the goods. Last year, 95% of the country had a biological rut which peaked somewhere around Nov. 15th. In most parts of whitetail country, a fawn born June 1 enters an almost perfect world as far as survival goes.