by Jeff Johnston - Friday, January 30, 2015
In arguing for the use of game ranches that employ high fences to contain the deer herd within, I've heard some people say, "Deer could jump the fence if they wanted to, but why would they when they have everything they need inside?"
Arguments for or against game ranches aside, I want to know:
Can a whitetail really jump a high fence?
Of course that depends on the height of the fence, but let's use an 8-foot fence, as this is the average size of game ranch fences. I am generally on the side of the whitetails' Air-Jordan-esque leaping ability on this, because I have personally seen them leap over high fences. (In fact, I took the photo of the deer leaping the fence that you see here.) But I didn't bother to measure the fence's height, and therefore I can't know for certain. So, I turn to people who would know, because experiments with wild animals are difficult if not impossible to control.
The Expert Opinion
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is the authority when it comes to deer biology and behavior. Its website says the following, as written by Kip Adams: "One research project showed nearly all of the deer jumped a 6-foot fence, most jumped a 7-foot fence, but less than 5 percent jumped an 8-foot fence. That doesn't mean the other deer couldn't jump 8 feet high, it simply means they didn't during the study. While I was in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire we had a deer at our research facility get spooked and jump over an 8-foot fence after taking only 1 to 2 steps."
The Ole Boy Who's Seen 'Em Do It
Jed Knowlton owns and operates Knowlton's Laguna Vista Ranch in West Texas. It's a high-fence operation that harbors many whitetails. If anyone has seen deer jump fences, it's Jed or the thousands of Texas game ranchers like him.
"I have seen them jump it when they are pushed or a really hot doe is on the other side and they really want her," said Jed. However, he could produce no video. So BullShooters is calling on you: If you or someone you know has a video of a whitetail jumping an 8-foot fence, please let us know.
The Answer By trustworthy eyewitness accounts, it is probable that whitetails can jump 8-feet-high game fences. But until we see video of a measured game fence, we will consider it probable. Why they want to, or not, is another question.
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