Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer, edited by David Hewitt and just out in 2011, is a book that belongs on the shelf of every deer enthusiast. Think of it as the modern-day version of the 1984 classic White-tailed Deer Ecology and Management, edited by Lowell K. Halls.
At only 686 pages, compared to its predecessor’s 870 pages, it’s much shorter—but only in the same way that recent Cabela’s catalogs have slimmed down from 1,288 pages to “only” 908 pages. And despite its cover price of $119.95, it’s currently available on Amazon for “only” $96.96.
That’s not cheap. Still, if your interest in deer extends beyond an annual weekend of hunting or an occasional morning spent cursing the midnight marauders that pruned your hostas, then this book might be worth a look. And it’s not just for wildlife biologists or the truly deer-obsessed. It’s also worth owning if you’re a curious amateur who wants to dig deeper and learn a little more.
If you’re a hunter, you probably already own enough books about how to hunt deer. If you’re a watcher, you probably own enough deer picture books to cover your coffee table. For what you’d spend on a couple more of them, you could instead buy this volume. A few more boxes of ammo, a few more sacks of “deer corn” (which you shouldn’t be feeding those deer anyway), half a pair of mediocre binoculars… You get the idea.
Co-published with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer includes 21 chapters divided into the following topics: The Past (just one introductory chapter on taxonomy, evolutionary history, and distribution), Biology (nine chapters on a variety of topics ranging from “Antlers” to “Spatial Use of Landscapes”), Management (ten chapters ranging from “Management on Private Property” to “Managing White-tailed Deer: Exurban, Suburban, and Urban Environments), and The Future (just one closing chapter).
By the way… By now you may have noticed something unfamiliar about the spelling and hyphenation of your favorite animal. Modern usage has settled on the consensus of “whitetail deer,” as in the magazine titles Quality Whitetails or Whitetails Unlimited. In a scientific context, however, the animal remains “white-tailed deer.” In a title, the W and D are capitalized and the T is not. You get used to it after a while.
As I noted in a review of this book’s 1984 predecessor, my DEERLAND research involved hundreds of journal articles and dozens of other books besides these two. I also did a fair amount of primary research by interviewing the top experts in their fields. (And when I say “in their fields,” that wasn’t always a figure of speech.)
With other DEERLAND sources, I headed out in the woods. With botanists, foresters, and wildlife biologists, I hiked around and asked lots of questions. With one urban bowhunter, I climbed about 20 feet up an aspen that, once the late afternoon wind came up, felt like it should have been slightly larger in diameter to support the two of us. To get my roadkill story, I spent an entire shift riding around with a State Trooper. (But at least, unlike one of our guests that night, I got to sit in the front seat.)
So don’t get me wrong. I did lots of other research. But Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer, along with a number of other books, provided important background.
And if you happen to be a curious amateur deer enthusiast, then you’ll find this book both informative and entertaining. There won’t be much on TV next winter, and Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer will keep you occupied for several long winter evenings. Once you’ve finished it, you’ll own an invaluable reference work. So for you, it just might be worth every penny.
© 2013 Al Cambronne