Alsheimer: Big-Buck Sparring Matches Heat Up In October

By Charles J. Alsheimer

Charles J. Alsheimer on Deer & Deer Hunting

Buck sparring matches will become increasingly intense as the rut approaches. Bucks will test each other’s strength as they posture for dominance and prepare to drive off their competitors. (photo copyright Charles J. Alsheimer)

Food still consumes the bulk of a whitetail’s day, though the urge to leave scent and determine dominance is on the rise. By the second week in October sparring matches between bucks becomes more intense. Though most sparring matches will not turn ugly in early October, they can go on for several minutes.


I took the accompanying photo in mid-October, in the heart of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. When I first spotted the bucks they were feeding on a knoll next to a beaver pond. The buck on the left approached the crab-claw buck and raised his head high – a behavior bucks exhibit to initiate an encounter. Within seconds they began sparring.

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At first I didn’t think the match would last very long, but on this morning the bucks decided to carry on the match for nearly 15 minutes, making it one of the longest sparring matches I’ve ever photographed. During the skirmish the bucks would break apart for several seconds and look at each other, before re-engaging in their antler-to-antler shoving match. There were times that it looked like the situation would become ugly. Overall, the sparring match covered an area about 40 yards long. Had this encounter occurred two weeks later I’m certain it would have been extremely fierce and life threatening. In an upcoming post I’ll show you what a real fight looks like.

– Charlie


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