Fallow deer, known as Dama dama in Latin, go back a long way in Denmark. Scientists believe that the fallow deer died out in Denmark during the last interglacial period, but in fact the above have been found in archaeological layers dating back to the Viking Age, and these deer are referred to in King Valdemar’s Census Book in 1231.

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The Middle East saw the natural distribution of fallow deer towards the end of the last Ice Age, so it is not inconceivable that some animals migrated north through Europe as the climate became warmer. Fallow deer were so popular with an ability in the Middle Ages that they were introduced to most northern European countries at that time so that they could be hunted.

A middle-sized deer

In terms of size, fallow deer in Denmark come somewhere between the smallest species, roe deer, and the largest species, red deer. The fallow buck is around 150 cm tall, standing approx. 90 cm at the shoulder. Their weight may vary, from 60 to 120 kg. The doe is slightly smaller, around 10 cm shorter, and weighs around 40-60 kg.

The coat colour of the deer may vary, but usually it is pale brown with white spots in summer, changing to a slightly darker colour in winter, with no white spots. Some individuals may be completely white, while others are almost entirely black. The very dark fallow deer variants can be confused with sika deer, but the white hind part of the fallow deer has three black stripes that are very clear.

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Fully grown fallow bucks have almost shovel-shaped antlers. In their first year, males develop “spike” antlers. In Danish, “stanghjort” is the term used to refer to two-year-old bucks, while a “halvskuffel” is a three-year-old buck. The antlers now have both brow tines and several spikes. At around three years of age, the antlers of fallow bucks have typically developed into a fully palmate shape, where the upper part of the antler consists of a markedly flat section on each antler. As with most other deer species, the antlers of fallow deer grow larger year on year. The natural lifespan of fallow deer is 12 to 16 years.

Rutting areas

The rutting period generally starts in mid-October and continues into November. The deer seek larger clearings at this time, which are their rutting areas. This is where they fight one another and the does come to watch the battles.

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The gestation period is 230 days, and one fawn is born in May/June. (More rarely, two fawns may be born.) The fawns feed from their mothers for the next eight months, and they are sexually mature at the age of around two years. The does, fawns and young bucks form large herds outside the rutting period.

Habitat

Fallow deer prefer older, light forests with clearings and mixed bottom vegetation. In summer, their diet consists mainly of grasses and herbs, while in autumn and winter they eat cereals, seeds and fruits, while buds and shoots are on the menu later. Research shows that there is approx. 75% overlap in the foods consumed by roe deer and fallow deer, but fallow deer move in large herds and are larger and graze much more efficiently, so they often push roe deer out.

Fallow deer numbers in Denmark have increased significantly over the past decade, and this may be one of the reasons why the roe deer numbers have stagnated and even declined in some places in the country. Fallow deer numbers overtook red deer numbers in 2016, and hunting levels rose from around 1,300 animals in 2002 to 5,700 in 2012 – more than four times the level in a decade. In 2017 – five years later, that is – numbers rose to around 9,400 animals. Conditions for fallow deer are really good in Denmark, and they have gradually spread to almost all parts of the country.

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DFallow deer are by no means as sensitive to disruption as red deer. When disturbed, they do not run all that far and they return relatively quickly to their preferred area. Hence fallow deer do not spread as quickly as red deer, but when they have reached an area it takes a lot to remove them. This also means that it is worth spending a little time looking at the territory in order to map the preferred locations for fallow deer. This will give you an idea of where to place your ladder stand or where to put a bullet trap when stalking.

Hunting for fallow bucks starts as early as 1 September, well before the start of the rutting period, while hunting for does and fallow fawns begins a month later, on 1 October. It should be noted, however, that these are general hunting periods and that there are many areas where some kind of local hunting period has been defined.

Hunting

Fallow deer are not particularly shy, nor are they particularly resistant to bullets. But as they are relatively large animals, the law defines requirements for the ammunition that may be used for hunting fallow deer: bullet weight at least 9 g (139 gr) and impact energy E100 at least 2700 J, or bullet weight at least 10 g (154 gr) and impact energy E100 at least 2000 J. Fallow deer are also known to have a thick layer of fat under the skin, so choosing a calibre from .308 Win upwards is recommended, ideally with a heavy, bonded bullet so that there is minimal destruction of the meat.

There is a big difference in how fallow deer are hunted, but this frequently involves quiet stalking of the bucks or pressure hunting, where the animals are calmly pushed through the area and arrive at the hunters waiting at the ladder stands. No specific equipment is required for this form of hunting. Most importantly, you need to be able to keep quiet and have a rifle with a good telescopic sight, and there should be several of you so that you can carry the animal away if you are lucky enough to catch one. Dragging more than 60 kg of wild animal out of the forest is quite a tricky task.

A culinary treat


Fallow venison is one of the most delicious meats. It does not taste as “wild” as roe deer, and its structure and flavour are finer than red deer venison. Moreover, there are lots of regular cuts on a piece of fallow venison. A 60-kilo doe can produce around 25-30 kg of delicious meat. A grilled fillet marinaded for a couple of hours in freshly chopped thyme, freshly chopped red onions, salt, pepper, olive oil and red wine is always greeted with enthusiasm.

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