Wildlife - Species

White-tailed Deer

Species Specific Regulations

White-tailed Deer

Licenses: Hunting License required and Big Game Permit. WMA Permit is required when hunting on WMA Land.

Limits: Limits vary according to game zones please check Rules and Regulations for Limits.

Complete hunting regulations.

White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Deer tracks
White-tailed deer tracks

The white-tailed deer has two seasonal coats. The spring/summer coat is reddish tan, and relatively short, with a thin and wiry hair texture. The winter coat is more grayish or even bluish tan with heavy, long guard hairs and a thick undercoat that provides excellent insulation. White patches are found around the eyes, on the throat, belly, tail (underside), and insides of the legs. When in flight, the large white tail or flag, flipped up in the air can be the easiest way to spot the deer.

Average Size
Weights vary considerably, but an average adult male weighs 175 pounds while a female weighs about 120 pounds.

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10 years in the wild.

South Carolina State Record: The 1906-2010 SC White-tailed Deer Antler Records are divided into Non-Typical White-tailed and Typical White-Tailed Deer.

Preferred Habitat
Quality deer habitat includes a mixture of trees, shrubs, vines, forbs, grasses and other plants such as fungi and sedges. Certain plants within each of these categories benefit deer more than others. Desirable plants should be well interspersed throughout an area, so that the whole area functions as deer habitat. Some type of water source should be available every mile or so. Enough area with appropriate plants should be available to support a viable population.

Statewide. Deer population by county is not comparable among counties because counties vary in size and are, therefore, not directly comparable.


Food Habits

  • White-tailed deer are extremely adaptable in their food habits.
  • Deer consume primarily wild herbs, fruits and agricultural crops; however, they can survive on the leaves, buds and twigs of woody trees and shrubs when other foods are scare.
  • When abundant, acorns are the mainstay of the fall and winter diet.


Peak Breeding Activity

Map of Peak Breeding Date for White-tailed Deer in South Carolina
Early to mid-November; begins as early as mid-October and runs through mid-January

  • Courtship activities among deer begin in mid-October. Bucks will chase does over a period of five or six days prior to mating.
  • The buck will mate with a doe several times and remain with her for a few days keeping other males away.
  • Eventually the two will separate and the male will go on to breed more does before the breeding or rutting period ends.

187-222 days; average 200 days


If a deer fawn is found alone in the woods, leave it there. Its mother has not abandoned it; she is probably nearby.

Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother. Young fawns like this have not been abandoned, but are still in the care of a doe.

The apparently "helpless" deer fawns born during April, May and June in South Carolina will begin daily movements with their mothers in about three or four weeks. Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring.

Charles Ruth - Deer Project Supervisor

SCDNR Deer Project
P. O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202-0167
Phone: 803-734-3886
Fax: 803-734-6020

E-mail: RuthC@dnr.sc.gov