Friday, November 25, 2011

More Whitetail Rut Photos-The Lip-Curl

It is quite common to see whitetail bucks lip-curling throughout the autumn months.  This behavior is associated with breeding activity and is most often seen during the peak of the rut.  It is commonly believed that the lip-curl is utilized to determine if a doe is in estrus. 

8 Point Buck Determines If Doe Is In Estrus
At one time I would have thought that the buck in the photo above was either an extra-large  1 1/2 yr. old buck or a small 2 1/2 yr old, but based on my extensive experience with Pennsylvania whitetails, I would not be surprised if this buck is 3 1/2  or more years old, although 2 1/2  years is more likely.

In the next photo a buck with a deformed left antler is captured doing the lip-curl also.  This buck is likely in the same age range.  The most likely cause of the deformed antler is that the antler was injured while in velvet, or that the pedicle was broken loose from the skull in a fight during the previous autumn.  This is one of the most vocal bucks I have encountered.  He frequently makes large resounding bleats while pursuing does.  Even with my severely damaged hearing, it is possible to hear him plainly at well over 100 yards away.

Buck With Damaged Antler

Lip-curling is not confined to bucks with antlers.  Even the 6 month old button bucks get in on the action too.

Young Bucks Lip-Curl Too!

The rut is quickly winding down, and the beginning of the Pennsylvania rifle deer season on Monday will bring much of the activity to a halt, but even if there were no season in the offing, activity would decline very quickly in the next few weeks.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Monday, November 21, 2011

PA Whitetail Rut Peaks As Rifle Season Slated To Begin Next Monday

If one is seriously interested in the whitetail deer, there is something distinctly unique about this week here in Pennsylvania   For  hunters there is the anticipation of the coming season, which is coupled with preparations for the hunt such as sighting-in rifles and scouting.

Interest In Whitetail Bucks Is High In Late November
For the serious whitetail photographer and student of whitetail behavior this is a time of mixed feelings as rutting activity is often exceptional--especially during the early part of Thanksgiving week, but the downside is that it is all about to end with the onset of rifle deer season next week.  In fact activity patterns will change somewhat earlier with the great increase in human activity in deer country as hunting camps fill up over the week end, and hunters pursue small game and scout for deer.  All of this activity serves to put somewhat of a damper on the proceedings and I can never recall seeing intense rutting activity on the Saturday or Sunday before season.

As most of the does are bred by now, it is common to find several bucks pursuing one hot doe.  The inexperienced who is scouting for a spot to hunt whitetails, often sees such a situation such as this and makes the mistaken assumption that this is where the bucks are usually found, and so decides to spend the first day of season in this spot.  Of course it may be a good spot and they may harvest a buck, but it is very likely that most of the bucks will be somewhere else.  They were only there that day because a hot doe was there.

Buck In Hot Pursuit Of Doe
At this time my thoughts always wander back to my years as a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  In my younger days we worked what we referred to as "the marathon".  This mostly involved working night patrol and looking for jack-lighters as locating deer by artificial light at night and shooting them illegally was one of the more serious and most common offenses in our area.  The marathon often began on the Friday night before Thanksgiving week and continued until the Sunday night before season.  This usually involved going to work shortly after dark and staying out until the early morning hours.
Bucks Attract Much Attention, Both Legal And Illegal

Sometimes one was still working long after dawn the next morning, if they encountered a serious offense that took hours to investigate and bring to closure. But it was more likely that one was in bed by 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m., and then it was back out at dawn for some small game hunting, or as my priorities changed--wildlife photography.  Mid-day was spent sleeping and then the process was repeated all over again on the following night.  As we grew older this schedule was curtailed somewhat, but even in our last year of working, it was a grueling time. At one time there was little likelihood that one would make it through this period without encountering a serious offense and often there were several to deal with.

Today, the law enforcement is a thing of the past, but I am still out there most days, documenting the whitetail behavior and keeping a close eye on the welfare of the local whitetail herd.  It is always a special thrill to catch a whitetail in the perfect pose--even though the subject may not be a large buck.

Whitetail Buck Performs Lip-curl

I probably spend more time afield in one week than most do in a year, but I have not hunted deer or any other species since about 1998 preferring to photograph and study the wildlife instead.  If you choose to hunt this year, I do hope that you will hunt in a legal and ethical manner. Be sure to read the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest , which comes with your hunting license and has a listing of hunting seasons and a summary of the game laws. Be aware that in some areas the  first five days of season are for antlered deer only, while in other areas it is still a concurrent buck and doe season.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.