Deer mating season is an exciting time for deer enthusiasts, but if you’re not used to the sights and sounds of stags battling it out to mate with the hinds, it can be a bit of a shock.
The truth is, it can come as a shock for the deer too, but that’s what the rut is all about. If you’re thinking of getting into deer stalking, then you need to know what to expect when you’re out in the woods.
Here are 15 things you should know about their rut! And if you’re not thinking of getting into deer stalking, you might still find it interesting to know what happens when these antlered animals get together.
The Latin word “rugire,” which means “to roar,” is an annual mating season in some mammals, found only among ruminants, including deer antelopes, sheep, goats, camels, giraffes, bison, and pronghorns.
This time of the year is known for heightened visual display and characteristic male-male competition for mates.
During this time of the year, specific biological changes happen to males who may secrete fluids from their glands while soaking in their urine, possibly because it makes them smell pleasing to the female.
At the same time, both males and females become more active sexually, making for some pretty strange behavior.
A harem is a group of animals like deer consisting of one or two males, some females, and their offspring.
The dominant male drives off other males and maintains the unity of the group. If present, the second male is subservient to the dominant male. As juvenile males grow, they leave the group and roam as solitary individuals or join bachelor herds.
Females in the group may be interrelated. The superior male mates with the females as they become sexually active and drive off competitors until another male displaces him. In some species, incoming males that gain dominant status may commit infanticide.
In Cervidae, the males are called stags, the females, hinds, and the young calves.
In deer of the family Odocoileidae – such as mule deer – the males are bucks, the females’ doe and fawn are young deer. As for Alces and Rangifer – the species that include moose – a male is a bull while a female is a cow and their young being calves.
Aside from moose, other North American species include the whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which spread across Canada to Mexico.
You can find other reindeer in the Aleutian Islands, and you’ll find even more in New Guinea. The white-tailed deer can be considered the most abundant species of large wild mammal, with a population of about 60 million individuals.
The mule deer (O. hemionus), named for its large ears, ranges from southern Yukon and Manitoba to northern Mexico. The tiny Key deer (O. v. clavium) is an endangered subspecies of the white-tailed deer; only about 250 remain in western Florida.
During the mating season, temperate species will use one of three strategies to draw inmates.
Individual males might defend a territory that overlaps the ranges of females, such as Muntjacs (Muntiacus muntjac) and White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Another example might be an individual buck that defends a doe against all suitors, like white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Or you may see men assembling and holding harems of several (almost six to ten)females. This last strategy is why we now know Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) as polygamous animals.
The males and females tend to form single-sex herds during most seasons until September, when females gather in rutting areas and are soon joined by male suitors who compete for them with displays of roaring, urine spraying, and fighting abilities.
The most challenging males in a group will try to gather up in large numbers and control the females when in a rut so they, in turn, can mate and spread their genes and improve their bloodline stance. The small or younger bucks who aren’t as solid or respected will need to find other ways to get noticed by the females.
Whether by climbing higher or using their intelligence to figure out another way, if they wait for others to get tired while fighting one another, they are bound to miss out on the opportunity. The oldest and strongest stags will establish harems – the most females he can mate with.
The more powerful and more dominant stags will fight others to mate with as many females as they can and keep other minors, weaker stags, from mating with them. The smaller stags may try to sneak in when a giant stag is too exhausted to defend his Harem from these would-be suitors.
Being the king of the castle comes at a price. That mighty stag spends much of its day fighting off challengers and scaring off hinds, so it has very little time for eating or sleeping.
While that might sound like an excellent job, it can sometimes take up all of their time!
Most muscular guys tend to get sidetracked by many things, mainly preventing other people from causing problems while concentrating on eating or sleeping.
In the lead-up to the rut, male deer undergo some noticeable physiological changes. The most notable of these changes include an increase in testosterone. If you see a buck’s throat swelling, chances are it’s about to growl. Over time, that growl will deepen into a roar once testosterone levels peak then taper off over the next week or so.
Since each deer is unique, even females can judge which males they would like to mate with thanks to the size of their antlers and this deeply intimidating roar! Thanks to their tusks, stags can use these roars as their first line of defense against rivals during the breeding season by using them as warnings. They mean business.
It’s always good to keep common sense at the forefront of our minds, especially when dealing with wild animals. For example, you’d probably think twice about entering an enclosed space with a bull because of how dangerous that could be.
Consider common sense applied for deer – especially during rutting season when stags are flooded with testosterone and adrenaline!
To give you an idea, these beasts of nature can weigh 25 stones and have sharp antlers. When disturbed, they can run at speed up to 30mph! Now what? That’s equivalent to being hit by a speeding motorbike! Still a deer enthusiast? Keep your distance and bring binoculars.
If two deers’ roars are evenly matched and neither retreats, the animals will fight.
It is known as parallel walking. If both deer’s horns lock together and push against one another intensely, it is the first step of the hindmost deer conceding defeat and letting the other pass.
Stags will thrash their antlers in the vegetation, making themselves appear larger than they are.
More giant antlers make them look more formidable in the eyes of their competitors and more desirable to their female partners.
They will also urinate and play into muddy areas called wallows. Think of it as the deer equivalent of aftershave on a Friday night!
As the rut advances, harem-holding stags become less tolerant of intruders in their territory, and there is an increased chance of them becoming violent. A stag barely sleeps or eats during the rut and can lose up to one-third of his weight during a fortnight of intense activity.
If you spot a stag resting on the grass, do not take this as a welcoming gesture to pet him. Trust us, it won’t end well! Each year, male red deer battle it out to become kings of the forest. The lucky ones can hang onto their top spot for around a month.
Each stag becomes exhausted during rutting season – they can barely eat or sleep due to furiously trying to fight off other challengers for control of the Harem (s). Stags spend almost all day running after does and spend any spare time guarding the females in their Harem from rival males. During this frenzy, stags can lose up to over one-third of their weight!
We warn you not to pet a stag during mating season as it will be exhausted and bite down very hard since it is at its most vulnerable state.
There are slight differences among how fallow bucks run the show. During the rutting season, these animals congregate into leks where they have competitive contests for dominance to try and attract a mate.
Unlike red deer who tend to own harems, it’s not uncommon to see 40 or so does with anywhere from four to five high-ranking bucks. During rivalries between males, their personalities begin to ramp up from moaning and pacing to outright fighting.
It’s challenging to find a bear free from some injury. Approximately 24% of the males in a Scottish study were injured, 6% fatally during the rut. An older, more dominant male between the ages of seven and 10 has the best chance of winning one such encounter with a newly matured young male.
Because the young male will wait patiently on the edge of a harem until he gets an excellent opportunity to steal a female or two right out from under another rival’s nose; this rivalry can become quite dangerous, which is why some males have been known to run away with little more than some minor scratches while some remain scarred for life!
Attaining a free harem can be very deceiving; although as many as 20 females in the Harem, only about four or five calves will eventually be sired by that same male bear.
Modern-day deer are known to have plump bodies and glossy coats. The best-known species include white-tailed deer, cut-horn deer, Chinese water deer, red deer, and mule deer.
Female deer of tropical species come into estrus several times a year. In the northern hemisphere, this is often between August and November.
Gestation lasts from 176 days in the Chinese water deer to 294 days in the roe deer. Multiple births are common amongst most species of deer – usually twins or triplets.
Newborn fawns are hidden from predators by their mother’s body heat and well-concealed nests until they are old enough to follow her example just a few hours after birth.
When deer are born, they have white spots wherever it may be on their fur.
These white spots help the fawn survive wherever it may be because they make them blend in with their surroundings as if they’re part of the background.
It’s as if they’re camouflaged among whatever landforms surround them, no matter whether those landforms are trees or fields.
It is an excellent time to enjoy the outdoors in the northern hemisphere, as the weather is warming up and deer mating season is in full swing.
Deer mating season begins during the early spring and lasts until late autumn. The rut is when male deer will fight with other males and try to mate with as many does as possible.
During this period, the males will gather together and create territories, which they will defend aggressively. The bucks will also stop eating and devote all of their energies to mating. Their life expectancy will be shortened as a result, and they will die soon after the rut.
The exception to this is the fall when the bucks will begin to build up fat reserves once again before the cold winter months. Around here, we’ve started to see (and hear) the rutting season, such as the sound of stags roaring, and that is a sure sign that it’s begun.
The only thing to remember is that they’re afraid of humans, and we should let them do their stuff without interfering. Of course, we should be careful in the woods (though most of the time we go and it’s enjoyable and we hardly see any deer in the woods), and if we see young deer in the spring, we should be cautious.