The Whitetail Lock Down Is Real

Have You Ever Witnessed Such Deer Behavior?

By
Timing

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1 | Timing

Every aspect of the rut is a fascinating journey into the whitetail’s world. Research has shown that in states north of about the 35th latitude, breeding occurs from late October to late November. However, depending on genetics, habitat and herd and environmental conditions, peak breeding will usually happen from November 5 to 20 (Kile and Marchinton 1977).

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The Pre-Rut

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2 | The Pre-Rut

During the month leading up to peak breeding, bucks juiced on testosterone scrape, rub and fight as they prepare for the rut’s defining moment — the breeding phase. Throughout this time, bucks drive all aspects of rut behavior while covering up to 4,000-acres or more looking for the first estrous doe.

Don't Miss: 5 Signs a Doe Is In Estrous

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The Search

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3 | The Search

Unlike bucks’ pre-breeding behavior, the doe becomes the driver when breeding begins.  Because does typically cover less than 600-acres, a buck’s world narrows when he pairs up with an estrous doe. When a doe finally enters estrus, it will accept a buck’s company wherever it goes. In many parts of North America, adult-does-to-antlered-bucks ratios are so weighted toward females that nearly all bucks are able to find an estrous doe. When breeding begins, scraping nearly ceases and bucks curtail many of the activities they engaged in during the early portions of the rut. Lack of scraping sign is a prime indicator that breeding is full-blown and lock down has commenced.

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Less Travel

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4 | Less Travel

As a doe nears estrus, it dictates the behavior that follows. Now, rather than continue to travel from doe group to doe group, a buck will stay with a hot doe for up to 72 hours. For the first 24 hours, a doe will smell right but will not be ready to breed. During the second 24 hours, the doe will be in full estrus and will allow the buck to breed it several times. Then, because it will continue to smell like it’s in estrus for 12 to 24 hours, it’s not uncommon for the buck to continue staying with her.

Don't Miss: 5 Signs the Rut Is Here

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Pairing Up

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5 | Pairing Up

During those three days, the buck will move only when the doe moves. Because most does cover little ground, deer activity can seem to halt during this time. It is quite common for an estrous doe and buck to move less than 200 yards when it is in estrus. During this time, a doe might bed for one to three hours at a time, before standing to urinate or allow the buck to breed it. I once photographed a buck breed a doe six times over an eight-hour period. During the course of the day-long vigil, they ended up about 150 yards from where they began. Only when the doe cycles out of estrus will the buck leave to look for another female.

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The Breeding Party

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6 | The Breeding Party

The first does to enter estrus will often cause a commotion by attracting several bucks. Seasoned hunters call this a breeding party. When several bucks vie for the same doe, a dominant buck gets little rest as it tries to run off all intruding bucks in order to maintain breeding rights.  Because one of the breeding party bucks is dominant, the doe will seldom attempt to run off when in estrus. A doe will attempt to flee only when the dominant buck leaves the doe to chase off a subordinate buck, leaving her vulnerable to the other bucks in the breeding party.

Don't Miss: Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Rut?

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Scent and Body Language Is Key

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7 | Scent and Body Language Is Key

Contrary to popular belief, does seldom vocalize when in full estrus. Over the 40 years of photographing and raising whitetails for behavioral research, only once or twice have I heard a doe emit an audible sound. Rather, the doe’s estrous scent and body language let the buck know she is ready to breed. In the moments before being bred, a doe is normally quite calm, usually standing still, periodically flicking her tail, while looking back over her shoulder at the buck or staring straight ahead as the buck mounts her.

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Life of an Estrus Doe

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8 | Life of an Estrus Doe

With a couple notable exceptions, a doe’s life is pretty much the same during this phase of the rut as it was during the previous month. The exceptions are that does tend to be more active and urinate much more during the 24 hours leading up to estrus. Often, when urinating during this time, a doe will rub urinate much like a buck. They are also more tolerant of a buck’s advances.

Don't Miss: Realtree's Rut Report

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Signs of the Lock Down

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9 | Signs of the Lock Down

Aside from these changes, does continue to go about their daily lives, bedding, feeding and staying within their family groups. When a doe enters estrus, a dominant buck almost always drives off her fawns. Consequently, during the breeding window, her fawns can often be seen wandering aimlessly in the vicinity of the breeding party. Once a doe is bred and cycles out of estrus, most bucks lose interest in her and her life returns to normal.

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A Tough Time to Be a Hunter

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10 | A Tough Time to Be a Hunter

Of all the rut’s phases, the lock-down is by far the toughest time to hunt, unless you have a hot doe in your vicinity. And then things get real interesting. Real fast.

Don’t Miss: How to Hunt the Phases of the Rut

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The rut is a crazy time during the deer season. And a lot happens during the madness that makes up the whitetail breeding season. And perhaps the most challenging period during it all is the lock-down phase. Here's what you need to know about it.