Deer: Cover Needs


Dense vegetation is an important component of deer habitat. It provides shelter from the weather and year-round food, as well as cover for fawning, bedding, and escape. Old fields, native-grass stands, dense patches of young saplings, and logging slash can all serve well for shelter and concealment.

Small cedar thickets of 8–15 feet high trees can offer beneficial cover, but these patches need periodic thinning or the lower limbs will die and reduce the cover value of the patch. Landscapes with a variety of habitats, like forest, old fields, and crop, can often maintain deer densities at higher levels than areas with vast expanses of forest or crops.

A wet fawn lays curled up in grass
Young fawn curls up in grass.

Fawning cover

Fawns are born with little scent, a dappled hide, and the ability to slow their heart rate (bradycardia). These three attributes keep predators from smelling, seeing, and hearing them, especially if they're hidden in thick cover. After giving birth, does hide their fawns in areas of dense vegetation, usually 3 feet or taller, and make only brief visits to nurse a couple times per day.

In the case of twin fawns, the doe will hide her fawns separately, so that if one is found and killed, the other might survive. Diverse dense cover makes good fawning areas, so old fields and patches of native grasses and forbs are excellent fawning areas.

Bedding and escape cover

Deer will continue to use cover beyond the fawning season for escape and bedding purposes. This cover can consist of habitats similar to those used as fawning cover, but it also includes thick wooded areas, often in early successional stages. These areas can provide ample food resources as well, due to the low and dense vegetation growth. It is beneficial to provide several of these cover areas interspersed throughout a property to increase deer use.