I am very fortunate to be able to observe whitetail rut antics in my own back yard most years. The “rut” refers to the time frame during which a male deer is capable of breeding, which is generally from the time the buck sheds the velvet on his antlers (late summer to early autumn), to the time he drops his antlers in late winter. It can also refer to the time from when a female comes into estrus, to the time when most does are no longer in estrus. Generally, in our area of Oklahoma this period runs from October thru January.
Once a doe comes into estrus, every buck in the area competes for breeding rights. The first time Daisy deer, an orphaned fawn we raised in 2011, came into estrus (during late autumn of 2013), I found it all very sweet and exciting. Though I did not observe the actual act of mating, I did witness a handsome six-point buck chase Daisy for two days and I watched them bed down together while he “tended” Daisy at night, making sure no other bucks got to his girl until she had finished estrus.
Last autumn, the rut started up later than usual and the weather stayed warm for a longer period than normal. The warm weather was bliss for me, but I suppose for the deer, who were already sporting winter coats, it was uncomfortable. With Daisy around sticking close to home with her yearling Spirit and the fawns they had both produced the previous spring, it was often that I was able to observe the chasing action down in the canyon. I was glad Daisy’s family herd did not mind my presence because, with their calm demeanor while I was around, an approaching buck often did not notice me with my camera.
Last year, it did not take long for the bucks to arrive in our area as they began their search for a receptive doe. In early October, we saw a couple of six-point bucks frequenting the area. Soon after, a beautiful nine-point buck arrived. But the fella we saw frequenting the woodlands most often, was a one-antlered buck I called Elvis. I am not sure how he lost an antler, possibly in a fight with another buck, but he sure looked funny. One of the very first days I managed to get good photographs of Elvis, was the day I saw him do the “lip curl”. That’s how he got his name of course!
One particular day in mid-November, the young buck arrived just after Daisy and her group had taken off into the woods. I was still standing near the water tub, expecting him to spot me any time. Moving along steadily with his head down and his nose to the ground, I could see he was definitely on Daisy and Spirit’s trail. When he reached the area where Daisy had been grazing on clover, he brought his nose upward and curled his upper lip. The lip curl helps the buck expose the vomeronasal organ in the roof of his mouth. Air is sucked across the organ, which is so sensitive that it can pick up individual molecules of scent. This helps the buck analyze the scent for clues about the doe’s estrus stage.
I was beginning to get worried when Elvis, staring straight ahead, charged directly towards me! Apparently, he was fixated on scent and not paying attention to the human directly in front of him! Suddenly, he seemed to come out of his raging hormone frenzy and noticed me standing just a few feet in front of him! Eyes wide, he made a sharp turn and exited stage right! And, just a few minutes later, here came Daisy running to the slope with Elvis in hot pursuit. Clever Daisy charged up the slope knowing that this buck would probably not venture close to where the humans lived. Sure enough, Elvis was left to groan around the edge of the woodlands up top, while Daisy took refuge in my Mom-in-laws back yard. She was evidently not ready to mate, or perhaps Elvis was just not “the one”. Maybe a special rendition of “Love Me Tender” would have helped…
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…