And We Aren’t Just Talking About the Birds and the Bees, Either
Alright. Alright. Alright. Let the jokes flow forth. Go ahead. Get them all out.
We’re still waiting.
You good now?
Oops. Sorry. Knew you had one more chuckle-maker in ya.
Now to the good stuff. Let’s talk peak rut. So, what really happens when a whitetail buck tends a doe? A lot happens. Here’s the life of both a buck and a doe during the time before, during and after that lady is in estrus. And while you’re at it, check out the rut forecast for this season. You might be surprised what we have to say.
The Hours Before
The rut is a magical time to be in the fall deer woods. Bucks are juiced up on testosterone. Deer are chasing as if their very species depends on it. It’s a dance as old as time. But the hours leading up to peak estrus for a does is pretty stressful — both for her and her mate.
Life of the Doe: The doe is in complete control. Does live in relatively large core areas and home ranges (compared to mature bucks), and on average, often total less than 650 acres. So, wherever she goes, the buck will go. That's one reason bucks are more vulnerable during the rut. Some bucks will push does into areas they feel safe, but not all exhibit this behavior.
Life of the Buck: It’s quite common for a buck to spend 48 hours or more (as many as 72 hours) with a doe it’s tending, as she will only be receptive for approximately 24 hours. If the buck finds her early enough, he’ll stay with her much longer than if getting to her during peak estrus.
This is the crazy time when bucks are actually breeding does. This time makes or breaks your deer hunt. If an estrus doe is near your treestand, it’s likely you're right in the action. If there isn’t, though, you’re in for a pretty quiet day.
Life of the Doe: As previously mentioned, because does show signs of estrus somewhat prematurely, bucks will attempt to breed does during the 24-hour period leading up to the actual 24-hour window she’s receptive. And then they sometimes do the same thing during the 24 hours after she’s exited estrus, due to the same reason. Because of this, an estrus doe typically gets attention from bucks for a two- to three-day span of time. Also worth noting, is that most bucks will chase off the doe's fawns while tending her. So, if you see fawns wandering on their own, there’s a good chance their mother is shacked up somewhere nearby.
Life of the Buck: When a buck finds an estrus doe, he’ll do everything he can to defend her from other bucks that are vying for breeding rights. If she’s one of the first to enter estrus, it’s likely that numerous bucks are around her — forming a breeding party. Once the bulk of the does enter estrus, this becomes less common and deer really start to pair off. Bucks will bed, feed and water with the doe during this time. But most of their time is spent bedded away from the bulk of the deer herd. During this time, the buck will breed the doe as many times as she’ll permit, which can range from just a few to 10 or 15 times (or more).
After the Deed Is Done
Things quickly change once a doe is no longer receptive to the buck that’s been courting her the past couple days.
Life of the Doe: Things quickly go back to normal for does after they exit peak estrus. Once the buck departs, they regroup with their fawns and other members of their doe group and resume day-to-day life.
Life of the Buck: As mentioned, bucks will sometimes stay with does for 12 to 24 hours because they still emit pheromones synonymous with peak estrus. That said, once the doe is no longer receptive, most bucks leave them in search of the next hot doe. Catching bucks between does is what you hope for during the lockdown phase.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.