Autumn in Wakulla County is typified by several activities which have a longstanding tradition for both male and female residents. Of course, FSU football is at the top of the list with the team expected to have another successful year.
The other outdoor institution for many is the annual deer hunting season. The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) has the western portion of Wakulla County in Zone D and the eastern portion in Zone C.
Zone C’s archery season has opened and Zone D will open on October 25, 2014, according to FWC’s website. The dividing line for most of Wakulla County is U.S. Highway 319.
Odocoileus virginianus osceolais is the scientific name of the white-tailed deer sub-species living in Wakulla County and much of Panhandle Florida. It is a member of the Cervidae family which includes moose, elk, and reindeer.
The white-tailed deer’s home range extends from Canada to Peru. There are more than 40 subspecies which cover this territory, each with their own unique features.
The first fossil records of deer date back to the Oligocene epoch about 30 million years ago. These early European deer were small by contemporary standards, but grew to impressive dimensions over time.
The Irish elk was the largest of these early deer. It stood about seven feet at the shoulder and had a 12 foot wide set of antlers.
The origin of the term deer dates back to Old English and was applied to any kind of wild animal. Over the decades the use was refined to only members of the Cervidea family.
The hunting seasons generally coincides with the white-tailed deer’s mating season, locally known as the rut. During this period the deer are very active and move around frequently, so hunting or not, deer sightings increase.
It is common to see a herd of does, some with yearling fawns in fields, pastures and even on highway shoulders. This year many of the fawns have been reported to still have spots on their backs, indicating a very young age.
Bucks are quite a different story. During most of the year they are missing the antlers and stay in small groups of exclusively males.
During late spring the antlers begin to develop. They are covered with a thin living tissue containing many blood vessels and which is commonly called velvet.
During this period males begin to separate and lead solitary lives. They occasionally can be seen in pairs, but are usually in pursuit of one or more does.
The antlers are tools to establishment of dominance over other bucks. As a buck ages, up to a point, the antlers become larger and multi-pronged, but genetics and available nutrition play a role in their development.
If a buck survives past his physical peak, the antlers decline in size and complexity. On rare occasions a doe will have antlers.
After rut the buck’s antlers are shed, and then consumed by insects. The gestation period for the does is about 200 day, ending with one, two and infrequently three fawns.
The fawns arrive just in time to see Mike Martin begin another successful season of FSU baseball.
To learn more about white-tailed deer in Wakulla County call the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Office, 850-926-3931.