The whitetail deer is so named because the tail has a white underside that is raised when the deer is disturbed or frightened. They are hoofed mammals that have antlers, which are shed every year. You cannot tell the age of a buck deer by counting the points on the antlers. Age is determined by extracting the jaw and judging the size and wear of the teeth. By the time a deer is 2 ½ years old, all permanent teeth are in. At this stage, estimating age is based largely on the rate of tooth wear. The whitetail is Florida's and North America's most popular big game animal. There are about 850,000 whitetail deer in Florida alone.
Deer must have one or more antlers at least five inches in length to be legally hunted. Legal hunting of doe deer is sometimes necessary for the health and well-being of a deer herd. Deer in Florida are generally smaller than northern whitetails because of two factors:
- large bodied deer with fatty tissue cannot cool themselves sufficiently in the heat of a Florida summer, and
- sandy soils in Florida contain fewer nutrients to nourish plants that deer feed on. In other words, the nutritional value of deer food plants is lower.