The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
Fawns in February?
For the past six years, I’ve been making a late winter trip south to bowhunt pigs in Florida with my dad. It’s one of my favorite hunting trips of the year (more to come on it in a future post), not only because I love to hunt pigs, but because South Florida is a very cool place—bikinis and beaches aside. Spend a little time hunting inland Florida and you’ll likely see a spectacle of wildlife you can’t find anywhere else in the United States.
Tiny Florida whitetails are one good example. In Kentucky, I start seeing spotted fawns in late May and June. Sure, I know rut timing varies a little bit throughout the country, especially in the Southeast, but I was shocked when, several Februarys ago, I saw a tiny spotted fawn following a doe through the palmettos of South Florida. A doe’s gestation period is about 6 ½ months—so that means that fawn was conceived in August or September. It was hard for me to grasp the thought of a buck dogging a doe in the 100-degree heat of a Florida summer, but the little spotted proof was walking around right there in front of me. Similar to those “You are the Daddy” episodes on the Maury Povich show, you can’t argue with the truth. This year, I managed to capture this short video clip of a doe and spotted fawn that walked right by my pig stand (this was on February 28).
I dug into this early breeding a little deeper for a story I wrote on timing the southern rut in Petersen’s Bowhunting a few years ago. Florida actually has the widest range of rut dates of any state in the nation, with whitetails in the Everglades breeding as early as July. There are several good theories as to why. Obviously, the tropical climate has something to do with it. South Florida has pronounced dry and wet seasons, and one theory is that does down there conceive earlier so that fawns are on their feet well before the summer wet season. Last year, archery seasons opened July 30 in Florida’s Zone A (southern Florida), and the idea was to give hunters in that area a crack at deer that are rutting.
So, the question begs—if hunting the rut in your state meant donning flip-flops and a bug suit along with your rattling horns, would you still go? I believe I would—but it makes me thankful for cold November mornings at home, too.