This week on Discover Nature, watch for white-tailed deer in rut, and celebrate 75 years of modern deer hunting in Missouri.
In the fall, fawns lose their white spots, adults’ coats take on a grayish-brown color, and bucks boast antlers to fight for territory and mating rights.
Deer were essential to American Indians and early settlers, providing food, hides, sinews for bowstrings, and bones for tools.
By the 1930s, habitat loss and unregulated hunting decimated Missouri’s deer numbers to just a few hundred animals – mostly limited to small herds in the Ozarks.
But more than 80 years of ongoing conservation efforts have brought Missouri’s deer population to more than a million.
Today, Missouri hunters harvest about 300-thousand deer annually, helping to balance the deer population and providing a billion-dollar boost to Missouri business, nourishing our cultural heritage and putting food on the table for families across the state.
During “the rut,” or mating season, deer are especially active. This time of year, be on the lookout for them when driving, especially between dusk and dawn.
If hiking in the woods, beware of hunting season dates, and wear bright “hunter-orange” clothing to make your presence known.
Learn more about Missouri’s native white-tailed deer herd, including the conservation efforts that brought them back from the brink of extirpation, and how scientists are fighting new diseases that threaten their health today, with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.