Classical population genetics theory predicts that selection should deplete heritable genetic variance for fitness. We show here that, consistent with this prediction, there was a negative correlation between the heritability of a trait and its association with fitness in a wild population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) and there was no evidence of significant heritability of total fitness. However, the decline in heritability was caused, at least in part, by increased levels of residual variance in longevity and, hence, in total fitness: in this population, longevity is known to be heavily influenced by environmental factors. Other life history traits that were not associated with longevity, such as average annual breeding success, had higher heritabilities. Coefficients of additive genetic variance differed markedly between traits, but highly skewed measures, such as male breeding success, generally had greater coefficients of variance than morphometric traits. Finally, there were significant maternal effects in a range of traits, particularly for females.