One thing that most deer hunters agree upon is that the whitetail is a herd animal. And that fact is never more apparent than during their breeding time.
One thing that most deer hunters agree upon is that the whitetail is a herd animal.
And that fact is never more apparent than during their breeding time.
And what an elaborate ritual it is, with clues left throughout the woods and fields, and we as deer hunters try to figure it out. And that’s hunting. That’s woodsmanship.
Solving the puzzle hands us the promise that if we are in the woods at the right time and place we have the opportunity for success.
But deer hunters seem to have run into a rut in a manner of speaking.
The trouble stems from the actual definitions and words that we have learned to use to define this time of year. The words about the deer woods are misleading, to say the least.
And maybe a more accurate conception can’t be found in the sacrosanct timeworn truths and old saws that we grew up with and cherish.
Let’s take a different trail.
What if we had never read about whitetail deer behavior or watched a hunting show on TV that described the images of whitetail behavior for us?
My point is that perhaps one of the reasons why whitetail deer hunting is so problematical is that we are in effect, running an operating system, loaded with old software that is not working very well. So let’s wipe the hard drive.
Specifically, let’s for a moment toss out the terminology of “the rut,” the post-rut, the pre-rut, the pre-, pre-, freggin’ rut! OK?
Then where do we go from here?
First of all, let’s start with “the things themselves.”
What have we seen?
What have we observed in the woods, on the sides of trees, in the soil? We are talking about scrapes, rubs, and licking branches. And more importantly, what are the deer doing … their behavior?
Now that we all have trail cameras, our insights into the world of the whitetail and its changes have taken quantum leaps, yet if we are stuck with the words and phrases of the past, and all their confusions, how can we go beyond to a better understanding?
For instance, if a hunting buddy bursts into work and says, “Man, the rut is on. I was in my tree stand last night, and bucks were chasing does, does were chasing bucks, dogs and cats were living together…it was wild man! I couldn’t get a shot…, but I’ll be in there this afternoon. I already asked the boss…”
But one of his buddies interrupts and says, “Whoa there Buckshot. According to what I just saw one of the Experts say on that Outdoor TV show, you are only seeing The Chase Phase, and that ain’t really the Rut.
“The Rut is supposed to follow by a couple of weeks. And there are some phases or phrases in between…I think, I forget all their names…”
Talk about confusion!
But we can simplify things a bit.
A key notion in the understanding of the overlap of the whitetail during hunting season and its breeding season is that a Whitetail Breeding Nucleus forms and when it reaches in effect critical mass, the woods explode with running deer.
And that’s what that hunter just cited, who burst into work all excited about what he had witnessed from his treestand.
As the days toward the hypothetical critical mass of the whitetail tick on, we see a greater evidence of scraping behavior and checking of the licking branches over the scrape by both bucks and does.
Trail cameras set up on active scrapes verify this fact.
Secondly, whitetail deer are understood not only as herd animals, but also as olfactory-based breeders, unlike human beings. So what are scrapes, merely where a deer paws the ground, or licks a branch?
After having observed wild deer over many years making scrapes, and on trail cameras mounted over scrapes, two understandings clearly stand out; one is that there are different types of scrapes and two, often the revisited scrape is created by a whitetail as a olfactory manifestation of himself.
A second buck, or doe may soon come into this scrape and leave her scent from various glands, from mouthing the licking branch to defecation. Whitetails will continually check into this and other scrapes, leaving scent and at the same time smelling the other deer and their visits.
All the while, a whitetail eidolon (literally, from the Greek, an astral double) is being created of the local deer herd at the scrape. I believe this is how the whitetails synchronize their timing to breed. That way, they all get on the same hormonal page.
As the optimal breeding time gets closer, the herd comes together. The bucks herd with the does and the Whitetail Breeding Nucleus forms. In the center are the dominant breeders and on the outskirts are the perifery bucks and nominal does and they all are players and part of the herd.
But from our vantage point in a treestand, we might only see one edge, one tiny part of the Breeding Nucleus, a snippet in time, when a buck chases a doe.
And we are lucky indeed when we are in the woods at this time when the center of the Whitetail Breeding Nucleus with its orbiting subdominant bucks and does moves near us.
Contact Oak Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.