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Much research has gone into defining fawn cover and how you can create it. If you’re a landowner and you’d like to improve whitetail fawn survival you may want to read on. Fawns naturally want to hide when bedded. Just last week I watched a newborn fawn walk up to a log on the edge of a neighbor’s yard and drop down in the shade, just alongside the log. He chose the cool shadowy side and once he was down, he was invisible. Fawns come with this hiding propensity already in the program.
Last week I was hunting hogs in the Everglades and I spotted a couple of fawns hiding in heavy cover. Actually, I almost tramped on one newborn fawn and it fled about 50 yards and dropped. I saw where it went but after walking over there and standing where I last saw it I was dismayed at my inability to locate it. It had to be right here somewhere, I thought. I stood there and looked at every inch of underbrush in an area the size of my living room. After five full minutes, the tiny fawn twitched his ear at a biting fly and I had him. He was only ten feet away and was as camouflaged as a diamond-backed rattler in dry leaves.
An interesting fawn study was recently conducted by researchers on two ranches in South Texas. The fawns were captured with the aid of vaginal implant transmitters that are expelled when a doe gives birth. The captured fawns were fitted with expandable mortality collars and monitored daily. The team captured and monitored 46 fawns across two summers. They kept track of hiding cover and the distance and direction the fawn bedded from shrubs. Here is what they found.
Dense hiding cover was utilized 81% of the time for bed sites. Interestingly the fawns stayed about 4.5 feet from a shrub. The other interesting finding is that the fawns understand sun angles or at least respond to them. In nearly every case, the fawn bedded to the SE of the shadow-casting shrub. The temperatures were consistently less there than on the sunny side. Think about the selection of southeast as a bedding direction. In Texas in June, the sun rises in the east and warms the air, but by late morning, the shrub is casting a shadow to the SE as the sun tracts slightly to the north as it moves west. The fawn is largely in the shadows when the temperature rises. This minimizes both visibility and exposure to heat.
So what can you do to improve fawning cover on your property? It is known that mama does locate fawns in tall spring grass. There are many native grasses you can plant that will help add this dimension to your woods and field edges. Another important consideration is that you should offer many individual patches of thick standing grass so does can scatter their fawns across a large area and not be forced to concentrate on one area. Another strategy is to encourage and even plant autumn olive or other brushy shrubs to dot the landscape.
Remember, fawns also enjoy some degree of protection from predation if they have tall grass in which to hide. When you only corn feed the bucks in your woods… you are taking care of you; take care of the fawns too. It will pay dividends in your deer herd.
This bit of whitetail research is brought to you by the science team at ATSKO. The only thing a whitetail can’t smell is nothing. Atsko can take you there.
Biologist Wade Nolan has spoken about whitetails in over 300 cities. Book him at www.wadenolan.com
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