Whitetail World : whitetaildeerhistory
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Whitetail Deer History

Whitetails, or odocoileus virginiansis (scientific name), have been around for a long time.  According to fossil records, whitetail bone structure has gone nearly unchanged for the last 3.5 to 4 million years.  The current estimated population of whitetails in the United States is somewhere around 25 to 30 million animals and they can be found in all but five states. (Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, Utah and California) They were not always so abundant.  Since the early 1800’s deer populations have experienced several fluctuations.  Native Americans killed an estimated 5 million deer per year to supply the fur trade.  In the late 1800’s, the deer population dropped to less than 1 million.  By 1930 the entire US population was estimated to be only around 300,000 animals.  In some areas, deer completely disappeared from the landscape all together due to commercial over hunting and poor land-use practices.

The 1900’s would bring some changes that would help revive the herd.  Possibly the most important was The Lacey Act.  The Lacey Act was first introduced by Iowa Congressman John Lacey in the spring of 1900.  The first federal wildlife law was signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900.  The original Act was directed more at the preservation of wild game by making it a federal crime to shoot game in one state with the purpose of selling in another. 

Another key factor was the organization of state departments of conservation starting in 1908.  This along with strategic deer management during the rest of the 20th century brings us to where we are today.  Over 10 million hunters chasing the majestic and elusive whitetail deer.