Bucks I have known: Part XII

This is the latest in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.

The Suitor Buck

In the late 1990’s I was bow hunting on a friend’s property near Paw Paw. I was sitting in a “chain on” portable tree stand, high in an oak tree. The stand location was about 40 yards from the edge of a field, just south of the intersection of two steep hollows leading to the corner of the field from known deer bedding areas to the north and east. Deer often hung out in the area around the stand, to feed on acorns, before entering the field in the late afternoon. The prevailing west wind usually made this a great spot to sit, as the stand kept deer that were coming into the field from either bedding area from picking up a hunter’s scent, even when they passed by very closely.

It was November 13th, and the whitetail deer rut was in full swing. I watched several deer approach from the east and begin milling around in front of my stand.

One thing that was interesting to watch was the interaction between a nice mature doe and a small spike buck. From the little buck’s actions, it was obvious that the doe was in some state of estrous. He repeatedly approached her and it appeared that he was trying to breed with her. The big doe wasn’t having any of his advances. She would whirl around to face him, and even struck him with her front hooves to chase him away.

As I was watching this play out, I noticed another deer approaching from the north, the only deer to come from that direction. The hollow in which this deer was travelling dropped down steeply from the corner of the field, so I was looking down at this deer from a considerable height. This also meant that he could not see the other deer at the edge of the field, and they could not see him, but I could see all of them.

This buck then stopped and went through the full ritual of making a scrape. He pawed out a spot in the leaves, while working an overhead branch, then urinated across the scent glands located on his back legs into the bare dirt he had exposed. This was first time I had ever gotten to observe this magnificent spectacle. He then came strutting and posturing up the hollow to the area where the other deer were.

The spike buck, which the doe had chased away, was standing about 30 yards from the other deer, He immediately left the area when the big buck came into view.

The doe then approached the big buck. When they came nose to nose, she veered off to her left, with the him following. After just a few yards, she paused and let the big buck mount and breed her. After repeatedly driving off the small buck, she had obviously picked her suitor.

All of the deer then moved forward towards the field, with the big buck bringing up the rear. I made a clean shot on him at about 12 or 13 yards, putting a broadhead tipped arrow through both lungs. He bolted about 60

The author with The Suitor Buck.

yards and crashed within sight of the stand.

Besides taking a nice buck, I felt incredibly privileged to have gotten to observe the breeding rituals I saw that evening, especially the big doe picking her mate.

That’s why I named him “The Suitor Buck.” 

Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.