Annual deer mating rituals ensue

Bob Fala Outdoors Columnist

November 5, 2013

The rather hot, heavy and perfectly timed mid-November “rut” or mating season of the white-tailed deer has arrived. Honed as such over the millennia, its timing is no coincidence. For human hunters however, the rut has an entirely different angle!

But first, let’s delve a bit more into this mid-November timing business. Reason being, it logically provides for the mass or “swarm” birthing of the next generation of deer come late May and early June the following year. These perfect times for mating and in turn birthing give the newborn fawns the best chance of escaping the collective predation of bobcats, coyotes and bears.

For an exaggerated example of this swarm effect, try this one out. Would you rather be one of the fawns born at one a day for each day of the year or one of the 365 born on the same day? It’s as simple as that. The optimal time of birth also allows for the fawns to cash in on the nutritional values of the spring greenery, which they must do in a hurry. That is, so they put on enough pounds for the winter ahead.

This may be the farthest thing from the mind of the human hunter, which in these parts is generally a modern day Robin Hood. Why, the long, liberal archery deer season generally encapsulates the entire mid-November rutting period. That’s when the hormone levels of antlered deer are raging to meet the peak mating demand.

Normally reclusive, elusive and highly nocturnal, they literally come out of the woodwork and show themselves to meet the primal task of the highest biological priority head on. More specifically, it’s called perpetuation of the species.

Seasonal or “estrus” females give off powerful scent signals en masse to complement the occasion. Deer running about here, there and everywhere are cause for abnormally abundant levels of vehicular collisions. So slow down and be alert out there at all times of the day now!

Polished antlered bucks will engage in battles for breeding rights. On some occasions, they may lock horns and battle to the death in the process. On others, they may lose an eye or break a limb or otherwise be injured. I have seen seemingly healthy buck deer dead in their deep snow tracks from heavy Thanksgiving snowstorms. Physically drained from their mating duties, they had not time enough to recover for winter.

Hunters everywhere know that their best chance of bagging a big buck or any buck for that matter increases as these antlered ones drop their guard a bit, distracted by the heavy scent of seasonable does. The hunter’s interest in bucks is perhaps greatest at West Virginia’s bow-hunting only counties of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell.

It’s at these famous four that bucks un-culled by the more efficient and heavier rifle hunting pressure reach their full potential antler producing ages of roughly 3½ to 5½ years of age. Yes, just like dogs, deer have somewhat regrettably short lifespans.

So whether you’re driving your vehicle or hunting from high up in a tree-stand, be alert for moving deer with little more than mating on their minds. It’s that time of year again.

(Editor’s note: Bob Fala’s book Ramblin’ Outdoors contains several accounts of buck deer battles to the death. It’s available at the Coal Valley News office at 350 Main Street in downtown Madison or online at McClain Printing Company.)