Anatomy of a Whitetail Deer
As an ethical hunter, you have a responsibility to be aware of the whitetail deer anatomy and how it enables the deer’s unique survival skills. By learning about your prey, you gain a deeper appreciation for this magnificent creature and increase your odds of harvesting a healthy specimen.
When you’re hunting a whitetail deer, it is incredibly important to be aware of its anatomy. You need to know where certain organs are located in order to properly aim your shot and make sure that your kill is as quick as possible.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the main points of interest about the anatomy of a whitetail deer.
Whitetail Deer Antlers
The most notable feature of a whitetail deer is its antlers. Whitetail deer antlers can grow up to over 20 inches in length and weigh over 15 pounds.
These appendages are grown each spring and shed each winter. They are one of the fastest growing bones in all animals and are made mostly of keratin protein. Surprisingly, females can also have antlers, but they are usually much smaller than their male counterparts.
Whitetails use their antlers for battling other males and attracting mates. Males use them during mating season while sparring with rivals that want to mate with a female.
The best thing about antlers is that they continue to grow throughout the deer’s lifetime; the older they get, the larger the antlers become. Whitetail deer antlers typically peak by the end of their third year.
The main parts of the antlers are the brow tine, the main beam, and the points.
- Main Beam – The main beam connects to the tines / points and usually has a long, wide base.
- Brow Tine – The brow tine is located above the main beam of the antlers. These are the points that come straight up from the deer’s head.
- Points / Tines – The points are the tines that branch off from the beam and look like smaller branches themselves. A whitetail deer can have dozens of points on each antler, but 4 and 5 points are the most common.
Bucks in Velvet
Whitetail deer antlers are covered with a layer of skin called velvet that protects the antler while it grows. This is why the deer’s antlers appear to be covered in fur; this covering is actually hair, not fur. Once the antler has reached its full size, the skin dries up and dies, leaving a hard antler.
During the time when the bucks have their antlers in velvet, they are very sensitive. Whitetail deer in velvet cannot fight or mate, making this a crucial time for the males of the species.
Whitetail Deer Head
The head of the whitetail deer, though beautiful and majestic, is also a highly-developed survival system.
The eyes of a whitetail deer are very well developed for detecting motion. Whitetail deer can see in color, but they can’t see the same colors as humans. However, their night vision is better than a human’s, allowing them to navigate extremely dark places without much difficulty.
In short, whitetail deer have acute vision and are able to see potential threats from many feet away. The eyes of a deer are a well-developed tool for helping them spot and stay away from hunters. This is why camo is important for hunters.
The ears of a whitetail deer are very important for communication and survival. Deer can hear noises from hundreds of yards away, significantly farther than humans. A deer’s hearing system is extremely sensitive to external noises and allows the deer to hear its predators before they get too close.
A deer’s ears can pivot from side to side, allowing them to hear sounds coming from different directions. Whitetails can actually turn their ears almost 180 degrees in either direction, giving them a wide range of hearing.
The nose of whitetail deer is covered in two layers that protect it from dirt, dust, and insects. It’s located right between the eyes on top of the muzzle and can be pointed straight down or slightly up.
This nose allows whitetail deer to pick up scents from great distances and use these smells as orientation tools for finding food, water, and mates.
Many hunters consider the deer’s nose to be its number one defense for detecting predators. Any person wanting to successfully hunt deer should take extreme measures to control their scent. Hunters can use the deer’s nose against them by effectively using buck scent lures and food attractants.
Whitetail Deer Teeth
You see two kinds of teeth in deer: Incisors and Molars. The ones that we see, which are called incisors, are chisel shaped teeth that can be used to bite off food like grasses and leaves. The molars are located in the back of the mouth and are meant solely for chewing food.
The incisors are situated in the front of the mouth. These pointy teeth are used to nibble and chew food, as well as break off twigs and branches.
A whitetail’s incisors only grow on the bottom of their mouth. The roof of the mouth above their front incisors is a hard palate with a rough texture that helps them grind food.
The molars are located in the back of a deer’s mouth, just in front of the throat. These flat, mill-like teeth triturate food for swallowing and grinding it down so that it can be more easily digested.
Herbivores have a very unique way of chewing their food; they grind their food with the molars at the bottom of their mouth. This allows for maximum digestion in creatures that don’t need to worry about tearing flesh apart because they’re never hunting for animals to eat.
Whitetail Deer Muzzle
The muzzle of a whitetail deer is very unique in appearance despite the fact that it’s used similarly to almost all other animals. A whitetail’s muzzle is short and stubby, allowing for easy movement through the soft undergrowth.
Deer muzzles are also covered with hair like their antlers; this fur can grow up to 5 inches long on some males during mating season! This beard makes many bucks look much larger than they really are when they have this hair standing on end while sparring with other bucks during mating season.
Whitetail deer use their faces as a means of orientation throughout their lives. You’ll often find them sniffing or nuzzling objects and other animals. The muzzle of a deer is very useful in helping it to survive, making the whitetail’s face one of its most important tools for survival.
Whitetail Deer Body
The maximum size of a whitetail deer is about 5 feet in length from nose to tail. Their average weight can range from 100 to 300 pounds, depending on the sex and age of the animal. Bucks tend to be bigger than does because they are able to fight for mates in order to produce offspring.
Whitetail deer have very powerful legs that allow them to run at speeds reaching over 30 miles per hour. This is made possible by their long, thick tendons and muscular bodies.
The hind legs of a whitetail are much longer than the front ones, allowing for easy movement in the deep snow and brush.
A majority of the muscle in a whitetail is found on its back legs. This makes perfect sense considering these muscles are used more often for running and jumping than they are for walking.
The front legs of deer help them to maintain their balance when running; however, they do very little work while deer are traveling, making them much smaller and weaker than their back legs.
Whitetail deer have a very thick coat. This helps protect them from the harsh weather that they’re exposed to during the fall, winter, and early spring months as well as from predators like mountain lions and coyotes.
The colors of a whitetail deer coat are generally a combination of yellow and brown, with spots that can vary in color. Deer with more brown usually live in areas with higher altitudes than deer with more of the yellow color.
Whitetail Deer Tail
A whitetail’s tail is composed of two parts: the hair and the bone. The bone section of the tail is short and stubby, while the fur portion of a deer’s tail can grow to be as long as 12 inches in length.
The unique design of a deer’s tail helps it with balance; when this appendage sways above its back, it gives a deer added stability when running through brush or while being chased by predators.
Whitetails also use their tails to communicate with one another. A buck will wave his tail over his backside during mating season as he runs from female to female, letting them know that he is the biggest and best around.
When a deer is aware of danger such as when it’s being hunted, it will stand tall and still with its tail held rigidly out behind it.
Conversely, when a deer feels safe and relaxed, they will lay their tails down alongside their body in what we call the ‘Chasing Tail’ stance. This means that they are comfortable with their current situation and aren’t worried about predators or other threats to them.
Whitetail Deer Feet and Hooves
The feet of whitetail deer are extremely important in helping them move around. The white-tail deer walk on all fours, making the front feet an important tool for navigating or scraping out a new place to bed down for the night.
The track of a whitetail deer is very unique and easily recognized. It consists of two “toes” that are heart-shaped and symmetrical. This is followed by two small dots on larger bucks.
Buck tracks are usually split wide while a doe track is closer together.
Whitetail Deer Bone Structure
The bone structure of a whitetail deer is important to its survival. Here are a few areas to know.
Deer Spinal Column
The spine of a whitetail deer contains three parts.
- The first part is the cervical vertebrae, which is responsible for connecting the head to the body.
- The second portion is called the thoracic region which connects with the ribs and provides protection in case of an attack from a predator.
- Finally, there are six lumbar vertebras that attach to the pelvis and run down along both sides of the deer’s back legs like pillars. Deer use these to support their weight when running or jumping.
No matter where a white-tail deer lives, it will have very large muscles surrounding its spinal column to add protection from predators as well as give them added strength when fighting for mates.
As a bowhunter, it is important to understand the strength of the deer spine if you are talking a downward shot from a tree stand. This isn’t important for a firearm hunter, but a spinal shot should be avoided if possible.
Deer Shoulder Blade
The shoulder blade of a whitetail deer is the bane of many bowhunters. If you slightly miss your shot forward, the shoulder blade will protect the deer and leave you frustrated.
The shoulder blade of a whitetail deer is located at the very top of their back, just below the neck. A whitetail deer’s shoulder blade is approximately the size of its front leg.
Deer Rib Cage
The rib cage of a deer is located on the underside of its body, protecting its vital organs and providing support to help it breathe. A whitetail’s ribs are connected by cartilage that allows them to expand and contract without making visible movement.
In addition, the ribs of a whitetail deer are weak enough to bend under weight, helping protect them from injury if they jump too far out of an elevated tree stand or get kicked in the side during a fight with another buck during the breeding season.
The bones that make up a deer’s head are some of the toughest in all animals. The braincase is extra thick to protect it from bumps and blows during fights between bucks. It also has a complex network of sinuses that act as shock absorbers when fighting or fleeing danger.
Whitetail Deer Organs
Here is a description of the primary organs of a whitetail deer.
A white-tail deer’s heart is located in the middle of its chest. It runs from the bottom lip to just below each front leg, making it very easy for blood to move through their bodies when running or fighting.
It must propel blood with a force that can reach three or four times body weight at top speed. This means that the pressure within a buck’s chest cavity and arteries are significantly higher than ours. If you take a shot on a whitetail deer using an arrow, it is possible that your bowhunter will puncture not only its lungs but also its heart.
If this happens, the heart will begin pumping out massive amounts of blood while filling with air. This will be evident if you see air bubbles in the blood trail left by the deer.
Deer lungs are located next to the deer’s heart and under its front legs. They provide oxygen for the blood, which then pushes it through the arteries to keep their body alive.
The second best shot is a through-and-through hit where the bowhunter punctures one side of the deer’s lungs and the other. In this case, it will still run a short distance before succumbing to the injury.
The guts of whitetail deer are located on the inside of their body just below their rib cage. A deer’s intestinal tract is an area that should be avoided if possible.
Gut shots cause internal bleeding, which will eventually kill a deer from blood loss. Gut shots are also harder to track because the blood trail from wounded intestines is thin and runs out much quicker than blood from a lung or heart wound.
Deer innards include their liver and stomach, which produce bile and digestive acids used for breaking down food in combination with enzymes produced by its stomach lining. If you know where these organs are located on a whitetail’s anatomy it may make for more confident shot placement when hunting them.
Summary – Whitetail Deer Anatomy
The anatomy of a whitetail deer is fascinating and complex. A hunter’s perspective on the animal will help you confidently take your shot in order to bag this elusive prey.
The article offers detailed descriptions of all parts, including where they are located and how they function inside the body.
If you want to learn more about whitetail deer, or if you just need some advice for hunting season, make sure you check out our site regularly.