Editors Blog

Buck or Doe: Who’s In Charge During the Rut?

 Whitetail deer

I simply cannot believe it’s been 35 years since the Stump Sitters distributed the first copy of Deer & Deer Hunting. As we celebrate this significant milestone, I’m equally humbled by the fact that we continue to unearth new insights into white-tailed deer behavior, biology and physiology that either a) debunk long-held beliefs, or b) shed scientific light on research inroads so we’re better prepared for deer hunting season.

One of the more interested notes of late was a revelation that John Ozoga shared a while back. This would fall under Category A.
How often have you heard the belief that a white-tailed doe basically just "sits and waits" for a buck to show up during the rut? This belief is as old as the hills, so to speak, yet it really doesn’t apply — at least not in today’s age of deer behavior. 

New deer management studies, employing new technology, contradicts that notion and indicates that white-tailed does exhibit mate selection and commonly leave their home range for a brief period in search of the best possible mate — even in high-density deer herds with a balanced adult sex ratio. In other words, the females are proactive in finding a mate during the deer rut.

"Unfortunately, this new evidence for female mate selection raises a host of questions concerning the breeding behavior of whitetails," Ozoga said. "Additional research will undoubtedly produce new information that changes the way we view and hunt the whitetail rut."

Another prime example of this mate-selection theory is showcased in areas with extremely poor-density deer herds (especially those with few mature bucks). In this instances, does almost always leave their home ranges in order to breed. Two researchers recently found this to be the rule in a case study involving a low-density deer herd in Florida.

If you live and/or hunt in one of these areas, this research gives new meaning to the "chase phase" of the rut. It might not be common, but that doe you see cruising the woods this fall might actually be looking for a buck.

2 thoughts on “Buck or Doe: Who’s In Charge During the Rut?

  1. Butch

    Can’t really buy into the doe leaving the herd in search of a mate, unless there are not suitable bucks a long, long way from home. I’m privileged to be able to watch Texas white tails on a daily basis. What I’ve noticed during rut is a bunch of bucks that I have not seen all year showing up chasing does. I’ll watch smaller bucks with the heard all year. Some local big boys will also hang all year. But every rut I see the same does sticking close and the and monster rogue bucks looking. When rut ends so does the rogue buck sightings.

  2. Matt Blue

    I read something along those lines before and can’t really say I have any evidence 1 way or another but that would bring up the question of accuracy for the belief that a doe runs off her male offspring to avoid in-breeding. If she runs him off, and then goes to his new home looking for love, what’s the point, or which 1 is not true?

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