When hunters think of vicious buck fights they envision encounters that occur in the late pre-rut or when the rut goes hot-to-trot. Though some of the most incredible fights occur during this time, fighting doesn’t end when the rut ends. Some of the most impressive fights I’ve witnessed in my career took place when the rut was over.
I photographed the fight that illustrates this week’s blog post around Dec. 1. Though it lasted less than two minutes, I thought one or both of the bucks would come out of it with life-threatening injuries. The fight ended when the buck on the right had had enough, broke the fight off, and ran for cover with the other buck in hot pursuit. Fortunately, neither buck appeared to be seriously injured.
Many knock-down, drag-out fights occur in late November and early December because bucks simply cannot turn off their aggression. Their testosterone level is still high and they are driven to hold rank as the most dominant buck in their home range. Because antlers become harder and more brittle with each passing day as autumn wears on, it is common for tines and beams to break when late-season fights take place. So, remember that aggressive calling and rattling can still be a successful tactic on testosterone-fueled mature bucks at the tail end of the rut.
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