In over 20 years of bowhunting the whitetail rut – and across a dozen different states - I had never witnessed the actual breeding ritual between a whitetail buck and a doe. That was, until this past Saturday.
It was late morning (11:05 AM) and I was just getting ready to pack up and get some lunch before heading to another spot for the afternoon. I shut off my camera and was disconnecting it when I spotted a doe being pursued by a buck. The buck was average for these parts, not huge, but not a dink either. I guessed him around 100 inches. I thought to myself – “This is nice” and quickly attached everything on my camera.
Both deer were heading toward my stand. They were approximately 90 yards out when I started to observe behavior I had never seen before.
The buck was pursuing the doe – that much was normal. But the doe was acting strange – it was like she was encouraging the antics. I realized quickly that I was observing the breeding ritual and that I may even have an opportunity to film this rarely seen event. I flipped on my video camera and started to roll tape.
These scenes occured on Saturday November 19, 2005 at 11:00 AM -12:15PM in Southwest Connecticut
The buck would run after the doe and grunt a little. The doe would run away but only for a few yards - just enough to “tease” the buck. He would then catch up to her and began licking her vulva and anus. She then urinated on him and he displayed the behavior known scientifically as flehmening – breathing her odors in deeply. This would stimulate the buck and the doe both.
The buck went into a 10-minute sequence I would call “foreplay” where they both licked and rubbed their bodies together. It is a scientific theory that the entire whitetail body becomes an erogenous zone during the actual breeding ritual. The buck rubbed his head all over her torso, neck and hips. The doe reciprocated right back. This would be intermittently laced with licking all over both bodies.
But this gentle display of mutual affection did not remain “gentle”. The buck started to gore the doe with his antlers. On several occasions he hooked her under her abdomen and tried to push her over. At one point he was successful and she fell right over – unfortunately I could not get that on tape. But the second time it happened I did capture the event on tape as he pushed her right into a tree and hooked her leg to the point that she nearly fell a second time. The doe did not seem to mind this, and would provide resistance to the buck – rather than just running away.
It was now 25 minutes since they first arrived on the scene. Things were heating up.
This rough “foreplay” seemed to get the doe more excited. She would bump the buck and on two occasions he would walk away – and it was actually the doe that initiated the sequence again. The buck would immediately respond with either more gentle behavior of licking and rubbing – or the more violent - pushing of the deer with his antlers.
It was then that the first breeding took place. The buck positioned himself behind the does’ rump and climbed on top of her – thrusting only 2 times before dismounting her. She ran a short distance and then stopped.
The buck appeared to be exhausted – and this is typical for this time of year. He fed around the doe but never leaving her more than 10 yards away. He found a secluded spot then bedded down in thick brush. The doe, still standing, eventually lay down within sight of the buck and they stayed there for 25 minutes.
I don’t know which one got up first, but I believe it was the doe that jumped to her feet and the buck immediately reacted. He pushed her violently and when she stopped, he mounted her a 2nd time. This act did not seem to take, so he mounted her a 3rd and 4th time in the span of 10 minutes. It was now an hour since they first had arrived on the scene and they had only moved a total of 100 linear yards. At several occasions they would move close to me (30 yards was the closest) but it was always in thick brush.
Frankly, the videotape was far more important to me than a shot at either animal. This ritual I was filming is usually, very discreet. It typically takes place at night in very thick brush. To have this happen in front of me, at noon – while I had my professional video gear on hand was a wildlife photographers dream.
The start-stop nature of the doe’s behavior signaled the buck that she wanted more. He bred her two more times and the last two he reacted physically by kicking, and thrusting his head back at the moment of ejaculation. The last sequences seem to push the deer forward, which is common. According to Len Rue, the moment of climax creates a powerful thrust, which can push the doe to her knees. This was consistent with what I witnessed.
The deer moved away and eventually disappeared in the brush. In the span of 70 minutes and 150 yards, the buck mounted this doe six times however the last two definitely resulted in a completed mission.