Interesting scientific studies of grouse in England may throw an analogous light on whitetail deer. It seems that when male grouse are injected with testosterone, they drive other males out of the area and expand their ranges. This increases their breeding success but not their survival. Ah, the price of being a king.
Interesting scientific studies of grouse in England may throw an analogous light on whitetail deer.
It seems that when male grouse are injected with testosterone, they drive other males out of the area and expand their ranges. This increases their breeding success but not their survival.
Ah, the price of being a king.
But what if more dominant whitetail bucks actually chase the subordinates off the property, like the grouse do in the study? We know nature's big photoperiodic syringe injects whitetails with testosterone during the rut.
This behavioral report begs us to ask the question: When we are hoping, shooting and managing for larger bucks, if we succeed, does that mean we will have fewer bucks than we figured on the acreage?
And the more successful we are by growing big bucks; will we in fact will have fewer bucks?
There are no fences in the wild, except the kind that deer easily jump, crawl under or bounce through. Further, it would seem to follow that maybe no matter what we as hunters or game managers do, it doesn't matter. After all, "Nature abhors a vacuum.”
If our property has a large number of small, young bucks as the rut peaks, does that indicate that there are no bruisers around once the bachelor groups begin putting space between its members?
It's been evident from tree stand observation, still hunting, scouting, and trail cam photos that this grouse study, though certainly not proving anything about whitetail behavior, hands us at the very least a good model to help us understand buck movement during deer season.
But what about our attempts at getting better deer hunting, no matter how we define it?
Seems like there is a tendency to grow deer as a substitute for hunting deer.
It used to be that the best hunters, not the best growers, dragged the best deer out of the woods. Maybe the headlong rush for bigger antlers, with the emphasis put on learning deer patterns and figuring hunting strategies and becoming more expert with a gun or bow, has now been superseded in some quarters.
We have learned about the whitetail's mineral intake, figuring ph and fertilizer, along with becoming better at running a plow or drag and depth of seeds.
Studies of the chase phase in young bucks of other deer species, such as the red deer in England, have shown that young bucks chase the does around to push them into the dominant, breeding bucks’ scrape/breeding area.
I remember years ago during bow season when three young bucks were chasing the same doe. She came running up to me with her tongue handing out. She stopped 10 yards away, panting heavily.
The three young bucks were standing no further away, about 10 feet from each other, staring at her. And all the while panting like bird dogs on a sunny August afternoon.
So we all stood there, just looking at each other.
And then she took off, gone in a flash, and the three bucks took off after her.
The doe was seeking safety from the young bucks and there was one place she could find it: Under the wing of a dominant breeder-buck.
There was not a romantic twitch or coyness in that doe. Those little bucks didn't have a chance of breeding her unless she could not find that big buck to protect her.
It would make sense to think the young buck's job is to chase the doe to the dominant breeding buck. But that's only what they do here. Maybe with other factors, such as population, chasing wouldn't happen.
Maybe a lot of the movement and signs we see is whitetails in a given area setting up their floating territories with scent markers, like rubs and scrapes.
Much has been written about territoriality. And it seems there are two types of territory throughout all species, fixed territory and floating territory.
Maybe the whitetails have floating territories, dependent upon attractive things like food and security. They float away from hunting pressure and changing land-use patterns.
Noted whitetail researcher John Ozaga wrote about whitetail deer (does with fawns) in his book, "Whitetail Spring.” (1996)
“By some definitions, a territory need not be a fixed piece of geography. It can ‘float.’ Under this definition, the animal defends only the area it happens to be in at the moment or during a certain season or day or both."
Can we take understanding of one species and apply it to another? Sure we can. Why not?
Oak Duke is publisher of the Wellsville, N.Y., Daily Reporter. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org