It is early fall and change is in the air and I am here to warn you about some changes that will be happening with me: No more Mr. Nice Buck. The lazy days of summer grazing are over. I need to carbo load and will be on the lookout for acorns, beechnuts and apples because they will help me pack on fat that will see me through this “getting busy” season. Get used to seeing more of me. I will be roaming far and wide in search of does, becoming aggressive and losing the velvet on my antlers. My does and I will be seen feeding together and I will be showing swag with my new antlers.
The shortened days have triggered changes in both female deer and bucks. The doe’s bodies are getting ready for pregnancy and I will “signpost” at night by scraping trees rubbing them with my head to mark them with my scent. I will show my dominance by sparring with the other bucks. They had better watch out because when I lock antlers with another buck, I plan to dominate. When the other buck backs down, it shows my place in the hierarchy. I will stare down any deer who wants to spar and prove I am top deer during the pre-rut. After sparring time, my behavior will become more frenzied and aggressive.
The rut season is a learning experience for young fawns. They are educated about the way a herd interacts. They get used to seeing bucks with full racks, and observe fights and mating. I know what you are thinking: Bucks are players! I will tell you, it is NOT all fun and games. The fighting between bucks can go to the death and it is not unusual for one of us to get injured. The younger, smaller bucks will avoid fighting with the more mature ones like yours truly by avoiding our territory. Before I mate with a doe we will chase each other and then briefly graze together before I start all over again. Hey, I did not get to this position by being a dumb deer. I have been able to survive by avoiding hunters, winning my battles and by eating immense amounts of food in the spring and summer to keep up my strength through the rut. By the end of the rutseason, I will be exhausted. Because I have slept little and eaten even less, I can lose up to 50 lbs. and feel totally worn down. I will seek out a safe place and recharge my batteries. After a couple of days of rest, the munchies kick in! I will head out to find grains to get back into fighting shape.
And when I have broken out of my rut, it is time for me to chill. I will trade in my red coat and be styling in my new brown winter one as the cooler weather comes. I am feeling mellow; my metabolism will slow to conserve energy and body fat. Time to settle in for the winter because before you know it, it will be spring and I will get back into the same old rut!