by Daniel E. Schmidt, D&DH Editor
White-tailed bucks emit many signs to threaten rival bucks, especially when the initiator
is a fully mature buck that’s at the top of the herd’s social rank. Researchers have
studied this behavior for decades, and we have reported on it throughout the pages
of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine.
What I’ve found most fascinating over the years is that observations noted by researchers
can easily be seen in wild whitetails, especially those living in the wilds of Canada,
the Upper Great Lakes region and some parts of the Northeast.
The following YouTube clip (despite the sensational headline) is a perfect example
of how a mature buck living on unpressured land can exhibit numerous agonistic patterns
when responding to a hunter’s rattling sequence. Ignore the choppy editing and gratuitous
rock music added to the video. This hunter is the real deal. In observing Canadian
hunters’ tactics over the years, I’ve been amazed (and humbled) at how astute these
North Woods chasers can be at not only playing the wind while hunting off the ground
but at how incredibly accurate they are when assessing when and when not to call to
a responsive whitetail.
This alert buck displays at least a half-dozen communication behaviors when responding
to the hunter’s calling sequence. Look closely and see for yourself. The tail flicking,
nose licking, sidling and head-high poses are all aggressive and defensive mechanisms
wired into the whitetail’s physiological survival kit. Slight apprehension and staging
cover saves the buck on the initial approach. However, the hunter’s follow-up sequence
is too good for the buck to resist one more look. By then it is too late for the buck
— and just in time for the hunter.