Whitetail deer are among the most hunted species in America, due to their abundance and great tasting venison. They inhabit a vast portion of the United States and Canada. The whitetail deer holds a mystic over the North American hunter that few species can rival. As a hunter, we love matching wits with a mature buck and coming out on top. I enjoy aging deer in the field and passing on that 2.5-year-old for next year. I have been on both sides of the coin the following year, seeing the deer again or wondering if he lived.
Have you ever considered how long whitetail deer live on average? This discussion came up at our deer camp sitting around the fire one night. To be honest, I had an idea of how long deer live based on my experiences but had no idea what science had to say about it.
The University of Wisconsin released a study done on the lifespan of whitetails, and they found the average age of a whitetail deer is around four and half years. For bucks, obviously the average is lower, at around three years. For does, the average age is about six and a half years. The important part to remember is that this study considered deer dying from disease, automobile accidents, and hunting.
One of the most interesting factors is gender. Bucks are much more likely to die younger than does for a variety of reasons. They are more aggressive and more targeted by hunters, resulting in earlier deaths. They also are bigger and must eat more than their female counterparts, and this can cause them to be careless in search of food.
Another surprising factor is the location of where the whitetails live. Some areas of the country are more conducive to holding deer populations. These places make it much easier for the deer to live longer and healthier lives. If you think about the availability of food and how harsh winter is it is easy to understand this factor.
A final factor that influences lifespan is the amount and species of predators that inhabit the same areas as whitetails. Hunters are obviously a key predator for the whitetail deer, but what other species prey on deer. In the western U.S., there are more mountain lions, bears, and wolves that can kill deer. In the Midwest, there are much less mountain lions, wolves, and bears, and the main predator for deer are coyotes.
The three factors above will play a key role in how long a deer will live in the wild. Other factors play a role in the wild compared to a pen raised deer. Next time this discussion comes up in your deer camp you will be ready. If you are interested in upping your whitetail knowledge check out our Whitetail 101 section. It is the most complete comprehensive guide for the whitetail deer hunter.