Fallow deer are our most popular park deer with over 60 herds in parks or enclosures. While some claims have been made, the number of wild Fallow Deer in Ireland are unknown as no national deer census have been carried out. Many of our now wild Fallow escaped in the early 20th century, which supplemented old wild herds introduced by the Norman’s soon after their arrival in 1169. They are now our most widespread species of deer and are found in most woodlands countrywide, both hill and lowland. Fallow have a very keen sense of smell and are acutely aware of any foreign noise. In hunted areas or where deer are disturbed it is easier to find them grazing at dawn or before dusk and one should approach carefully from the downwind side.
Fallow bucks are easiest to see in October during the rut. They tend to use the same rutting ground each year and the rutting area would have a strong musky smell with some scraping of the ground and tree bark damage.
This is the only Irish species of deer where the bucks have palmate (broad flattened) antlers. The coat coloration is quite variable including Black, White, Brown, Yellowish etc. With the exception of Black and White, the rest have a white underbelly and white rump patch with a black line surround and a black line from the top of the shoulder to the tip of the tail. Common Fallow (the most numerous) are light brown with white spots in summer and this grey and darkens in the winter. Size wise, the fallow is between the Sika and the Red. With adults bucks weighing about 100lbs or about 55kg carcass weight and Does weighting 40-45 kg live weight.
Fallow are a herd deer but group size is influenced by habitat. They favour a varied habitat with cover and grazing, that is mixed deciduous woodland or pine with grazing. They are primarily grazers and will graze all year round, however the will eat herbs, leaves, acorns, young deciduous shoots and farm crops (sugar beet). Bucks grow antlers in late Spring and have a soft skin covering called velvet. Antlers will grow until August, the velvet dies and is scraped off. The antlers are fully grown in August and will remain until they are shed in March and April. Antler size to some extent depends on age but more importantly on the deer’s health and nutrition. In the wild the best heads are found on 7-9 year old animals.
The breeding season (rut) is in October. The timing of the rut is controlled by the length of the day. During the rut the bucks move into females’ area and competition for females can be intense. Fallow bucks will fight quite aggressively for dominance and may aggressively lock antlers and push or wrestle. The bucks emit sounds (groans) during the rut which is rhythmic and cough-like. Scraps and markings can be found in rutting areas which are scented by glands on the bucks face.
Does may breed at a year and a half, if pregnancy does not occur, ovulation (heat) will occur again in 21 days later. Pregnancy in a Doe lasts 33 weeks and fawns are born in June. It is important to note that fawns do not follow their mother for two weeks. While the mother is off grazing the fawns are left lying in cover. Such fawns are not abandoned and should not be touched or removed. Fawns may continue to suckle until the next sibling is born.
Fallow deer are a protected game species and may only be hunted with a licence from the National Parks and Wild Life Service. Fallow bucks may be hunted from the 1st of September until December 31st and Does may be hunted from the Ist of November to the February 28th.
Wild Deer Association of Ireland is fully committed to the conservation of Irish Deer and the protection of habitat. The Association also offers to promote the interests of legitimate hunters and offers guidelines to same with meeting on Topical issues, Code of Conduct/ Safety, Target Shoots etc.