The tiny animal was helpless and innocent.

As it sat by the road, the rumble of a truck slowly creeping up the hill must have terrified the week-old fawn. It could do nothing but hope the unnatural beast would keep moving.

This scene played out on a recent fishing trip with my son. As we climbed the dirt road away from the pond, I caught a glimpse of movement along the right-hand side of the road. It was a tiny whitetail fawn doing exactly what it was supposed to do — waiting for its momma.

This is a pivotal time of the year for our beloved whitetails. After a long, cold winter, the female half of the species doesn't have much time to enjoy the warm weather. The does are busy keeping their newborn fawns out of trouble.

Most hunters concentrate on the peak of the rut — the height of the breeding season when once-weary bucks have just one thing on their minds. But the key time for the expansion of the deer herd is right now.

The average gestation period for a whitetail is 200 days. If you pull out a calendar and count backwards, you will see why the state's does have been busy in recent weeks. We're about 210 days past the peak of November's rut.

The actual labor process can be as short as a half hour or it can last 12 or more grueling hours. In the end, the mother is left licking clean a 5- to 8- pound fawn, spots and all. Within 20 minutes, a newborn can be taking its first wobbly steps. After a few months of nursing and being shown the ways of the wild, a fawn is ready to take on the woods. By fall, a mother and her yearlings will rejoin the local herd and the cycle will start over.


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As many hikers and, unfortunately, drivers can attest, the newborn deer that fill the woods these days don't have much of an immediate fear for humans or their beastly vehicles.

In fact, very young whitetails have virtually no fear of predators. When approached, they don't often run away or try to hide. In fact, fawns have been known to walk up to humans.

Because they know they're so vulnerable, mothers of fawns will separate themselves from the herd and seek seclusion and cover. They even push away their year-old offspring in an effort to find seclusion, which is why you may be seeing a lot of small deer in the woods and along our highways.

It's impossible to deny what's happened in our woods over the last few weeks is a miraculous process. Hopefully, you have the opportunity to witness this pivotal part of the life cycle first hand. The only way to do it is to get outside and be where the deer are.

So many hunters are concerned about the rut, but the truly important time is happening right now. Find time in the next week or two to take a stroll through the woods.

Chances are, you'll be treated to the site of a spotted newborn whitetail.

— Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.