The running of the bulls is an international spectacle but no more popular to deer hunters than this week’s running of the does, an annual ritual that marks the height of the early November whitetail rut.
Indeed every whitetail buck of breeding age is chasing does 24 hours a day in an attempt to complete their mission.
This fast moving breeding activity means more than next spring’s crop of fawns. To hunters armed with archery equipment it means that mature bucks are so intent on winning does that even the most wary trophies are on the move and paying little attention to any danger.
Just watch the highway massacre for proof. The number of vehicle/deer collisions skyrockets as deer run recklessly through the countryside. Most often it isn’t a case of a vehicle hitting a deer but a deer crashing into a car or truck.
Ohio record thousands of deer/vehicle crashes each year with the highest percentage occurring in November.
But back to the woods, where smart hunters are sitting quietly in tree stands waiting for their chance at the “right” buck. In fact, more big trophies are killed in the first two weeks of November than at any other time.
A survey of the dates of harvest in the record books confirms this. And the influx of non-resident “rut” hunters who lease Ohio hunting properties proves it as well.
Whitetail deer breeding habits are intense and interesting to observe. Antlered bucks create rubs on trees as the cooler weeks of autumn and the rut approaches. They simply rake saplings and smaller trees in response to the hormonal changes that swing with the seasons.
Then they move into the actual rutting cycle by scratching out scrapes on the ground where they leave scent which attracts does that are ready to be bred. As the buck checks his scrapes he finds the scent of a doe which triggers his desire to complete his purpose.
He trails that doe, and any others he spots, like a beagle tracking a rabbit and thus the running of the does.
As breeding activities cool by mid-November bucks and does return to a more normal behavior and the bigger bucks spend much less time afield during the daylight hours.
Patient hunters can sometimes see a scrape and observe the rituals of both does and bucks. It is truly a sight to see, a natural activity that allows bucks to find “ready” does.
Many younger does and those that didn’t meet the right buck during the rut will again be ready for breeding in about a month for a secondary, although much less intense, rut.