As the pre-rut kicks in whitetail deer movement patterns change dramatically. Many if not most bucks will disperse or leave their home range during their first autumn as a rack buck. If not they usually disperse the following spring. This is a built in mechanism to prevent inbreeding. If they do not leave willingly, the does will harass them violently to encourage dispersal. This is the first year that I have seen two year old rack bucks remain in their home range until September. In both cases their mothers were lost to either game law violations or in season harvest on a neighboring property and so were not there to drive them away.
It is difficult if not impossible to tell in most cases what actually happens to the animal. Do they actually disperse or are they taken in game law violations, or legitimate archery hunting on nearby property. In many cases during the past, the bucks have not been legal game for adult hunters. In many of the cases I have seen, it boils down to three options: dispersal, game law violations, or there are a lot of extremely proficient junior bow hunters out there.
The first to vanish this year was the eight-point with a broken tine that was featured in many of the summer's photographs. I photographed him for the last time on the morning of September 16th, and saw him for the last time on the morning of September 18th. He was showing very little interest in rutting activity at that time, but it is possible that he dispersed. After the events of this morning, I am not inclined to believe that he left voluntarily.
The largest buck, which has also been shown in many posts was definitely alive and well on Wednesday of last week (Coy of Country Captures saw him), but I had not seen him since I returned from photographing the elk rut until this morning.
I was pleasantly surprised to see him walk into the meadow, but then I noticed a long, deep, angry looking gash along the backbone on his left side.
Archery season did open on Saturday, but this looks more like a rifle bullet wound to me. It would also be more likely for an archer to be in a tree stand shooting down at the animal and this is a grazing wound that is angled in such a way that it appears to have been inflicted from ground level.
The local Pennsylvania Game Commission officers have recently arrested several people for shooting deer at night by use of artificial light. For those of you who do not know about this activity, the criminals drive about the backcountry shining a spotlight until they locate deer and then attempt to kill one or more of the animals. The weapon of choice is a rifle, most often a .22 magnum, although the heavy calibers are also used quite frequently. It seems most likely that this animal was the victim of another such attempt.
Fortunately the bullet did not go true and the animal survived, but a close look at his eyes through the 500mmF4 reveals a slightly glazed look, which indicates the animal is in a great deal of pain.
The animal should recover from this wound in time if given the chance, but is most likely that the first buck will never return. I would almost bet the farm that the criminals will return to make another attempt on the life of the injured buck.
I realize that most will find the wound photos very disturbing, but I feel compelled to show them as it demonstrates only too well the consequences of this type of behavior. Unfortunately in too many cases the perpetrators would feel no remorse upon seeing the photographs, but would shrug and say something like, "well at least we didn't miss him completely".