Science of Deer Hunting
Why Bucks Pick A Fight
ZAIGLIN: Although very few small bucks try to fight older bucks, sometimes they do. Older bucks have more of a tendency to fight other mature bucks and are more likely to really hurt each other. Older bucks spend much time exercising a lot of aggression, which makes them very stressed during the breeding period and reduces their energy.
CAUSEY: Bucks fight during the rut by sparring or play fighting. Once their antlers are polished, they establish a dominance hierarchy through vigorous fighting or bluffing displays. However, any time controversy arises between two males about which is dominant, a serious fight usually will be the result. Most of the time though, this aggression is satisfied either by posturing or bluffing rather than actual physical fighting.
GORE: Deer do a lot of fighting. Usually the older they are, the more they fight. The younger a buck is, the less fighting he will do. When bucks are about three years old, one buck dominates another buck quickly, without actually fighting but rather by sparring. But the very aggressive, older bucks may hurt each other over the breeding.
WILL THE DOMINANT BUCK FIGHT ANY OTHER BUCK THAT COMES INTO HIS HOME RANGE DURING THE RUT?
CAUSEY: If that buck fails to yield to the dominant buck with proper posturing and proper behavior, the dominant buck will fight the buck that's new to the area.
ZAIGLIN: No set boundaries exist on acres. Often deer's boundaries overlap, and many bucks may pass through an area. What bucks don't do is share their breeding periods. In the summertime, bucks normally will travel together. They're a highly compatible species until breeding begins.
GORE: A dominant buck and a new buck in a region probably will fight only if there's a doe in heat. If the bucks are just roaming around looking, they won't fight. But if both are covering a wider territory than usual and one has a doe in heat with him, and he's trying to keep her away from other deer, then there's liable to be one big fight.
DE YOUNG: There's some debate about whether biologists ought to even say deer are territorial, because to a scientist, the word, territory doesn't simply mean the area where deer roam. A deer's territory also means he defends the region from other deer.
IS WEATHER A FACTOR IN THE RUT?
ZAIGLIN: The weather absolutely is a critical factor. In South Texas, we may have 95 degree days, even in December. When the weather's dry and hot in December, sexual activity will be suppressed, but the deer don't quit breeding. Deer breed regardless of the temperature, although they may do it more lethargically or nocturnally and not necessarily in the daytime. Weather may play a role in what we see of the rut, however, it doesn't necessarily stop the rut.
CAUSEY: Yes, cooler weather allows more vigorous activity of the deer without creating heat stress. When cool snaps occur during the time of year when rutting takes place, the weather encourages a lot of chasing, playing, running and other types of activities people associate with the rut. So cooler weather can bring out the more aggressive activity.
GORE: I don't think weather has anything to do with the rut other than deer obviously are more active on a cool wind from the North than they are on a hot, southern wind. Although you may see more activity in cool weather, the deer probably are breeding even when the weather's hot.