Did you know? White-tailed deer are able to reach speeds in access of 30 miles per hour. They can leap up to 15 feet high and as far as 30-40 feet. The White-tailed Deer is Ohio’s official state mammal.
In 1988, the Ohio General Assembly made the White-tailed Deer Ohio’s official state mammal. The White-tailed Deer, has been extremely important in Ohio’s history. The state tree, the Ohio Buckeye, is named because its nut resembles a deer, or buck’s, eye. Buckeye is based on the Native American word “hetuck,” meaning “eye of the buck.” White-tailed Deer have been in Ohio since the end of the last Ice Age. The deer played a very important role in the lives of practically all of Ohio’s prehistoric Native American cultures. Ohio’s native people used the deer’s meat for food, the hide for clothing, and the bones and antlers for tools. As the Ice Age ended, the White-tailed Deer spread across Ohio. The deer population before 1775 was healthy and stable because of good food and cover. The wolf, cougar, and Native American hunters limited the deer population slightly. The White-tailed Deer was the most important food source for the Native Americans. As they did during prehistoric times, Native Americans used deer for many reasons, including for food, clothing, and for tools.
As the Europeans entered into what is now modern-day Ohio, they too used deer to their own advantage. Europeans considered deer hide to be very valuable. They used deer skins in barter and trade with the Native Americans and with other Europeans. The slang term “buck,” referring to a dollar, dates to this time when deer skins, called buckskins, were used to trade and barter for supplies.
As white settlers began to carve farms out of Ohio’s forests, the deer population decreased. To try and save Ohio’s dwindling deer population, Ohio’s government established hunting restrictions in 1857. However hunting seasons that lasted over a month with no bag limits continued through most of the 1800s.
By 1904, White-tailed Deer no longer existed in Ohio. During the 1920s and the 1930s, a limited restocking program began, as well as the natural migration of deer from surrounding states into Ohio. By 1937 White-tailed Deer were reported in twenty-eight of Ohio’s counties, and in 1943, enough deer existed in the state for a regulated hunting season to occur in select counties. By 1956, deer existed in all of Ohio’s counties, and hunting now occurred across the state. In 1995, Ohio’s deer population had reached 550,000 animals.
The white-tailed deer, commonly referred to as the whitetail, is perhaps Ohio’s best-known wildlife species. It is seen in the state’s wildlife areas, parks, and nature preserves as well as in the backyards of rural and suburban residents.
The whitetail has two seasonal coats. The spring/summer coat is reddish tan, and relatively short, with a thin and wiry hair texture. The winter coat is more grayish or even bluish tan with heavy, long guard hairs and a thick undercoat that provides excellent insulation. White patches are found around the eyes, on the throat, belly, tail (underside), and insides of the legs. When in flight, the large white tail or flag, flipped up in the air can be the easiest way to spot the deer.
Whitetails are active around the clock, but less so during daylight hours. Most often, white-tailed deer are on the move at dawn and dusk. This behavior can prove hazardous to humans during the breeding season in the fall. Commuters to and from work often encounter deer on the move at this time of year which can result in serious accidents. Drivers should pay special attention October through December when traveling through zones marked with deer crossing signs.
Best Viewing & Hunting Opportunities
- Lake LaSuAn Wildlife Area, Williams County
- Deer Creek Wildlife Area, Pickaway County
- Jockey Hollow Wildlife Area, Harrison County
- Crown City Wildlife Area, Gallia County
- Waterloo Wildlife Area, Athens County
- Tranquility Wildlife Area, Adams County
Fun Facts about White-tailed Deer
- Native Americans also used the hides, antlers, and bones for ceremonial purposes. Archaeologists have found deer antlers sheathed in copper at a prehistoric site, and Hopewell craftspeople made shaman characters wearing deer antlers.
- According to a report in 1779, “A large buckskin is valued at a Spanish dollar; two doeskins are regarded as equal in value to one buckskin.”
- Although absent from the state for nearly 2 decades, the white-tailed deer, Ohio’s only big game animal, now occurs in all 88 counties.
Information on this page was gathered from the below website.
For more information on the White-tailed Deer and other important Ohio wildlife go to http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index