When we start talking about off-the-wall whitetail behavior such as is involved here, many question the validity, and/or worth, of such information.
Well, I'll be the first to say that I'm not a biologist, nevertheless, in the past 30 years, I've probably spent about as much time observing whitetail deer behavior as a lot of those guys have. That said, I'd like to tell you about a "quirk" of mature buck behavior that I've witnessed many, many times over the years. This knowledge has even led me to some very off-the-wall hunting places that have paid me great rewards. Mature buck breeding sanctuaries -- that's what I'm talking about!
OK, picture this ... in a healthy deer herd -- where the competition for breeding right's is intense -- a mature buck gets hooked-up with a doe in estrous. Since it's the peak of the rut, every other buck in the area is looking for the same piece of action. The big buck, which has acquired the doe (sometimes at a brutal cost), knows this also. Additionally, (I'm speculating here), the doe has found what she needs (a dominant buck with which to pro-create), so she'd just as soon get away from the maddening crowd in order to keep from being harassed and/or "raped" by every other buck in the neighborhood. Whatever the reason for their departure, these two animals make a getaway to parts-unknown.
A Love Hideaway
Did you ever see a big buck and doe in a really "weird" place during the peak of the breeding season? Did you wonder why? Do you think it was pure happenstance ... no logical reason involved? Well, I don't think so -- I've seen it too many times. Let me give you my take on the matter.
A dominant buck -- once he's acquired a receptive doe -- will take her to a "hidey-hole" to get away from competition from other bucks. A mature buck will have been through enough breeding seasons to acquire "learned behavior" -- behavior, which benefits his needs and desires. In other words, the buck is going to do whatever is necessary to keep the doe isolated for himself, for as long as she's in estrous. He doesn't want to spend all his time, attention and energy, fighting off the advances of other amorous bucks. He'd much rather be focusing on one thing, and one thing alone. Have you ever been in that position yourself? Ha, ha, ha ... .
Over the years, I've witnessed mature bucks with does in very isolated places. I've learned to take such behavior very serious during the peak of the breeding cycle, but have you? Think back ... haven't you always heard (or learned on your own) that mature bucks can be hard to find during the peak of the breeding season? And if you do see one at this time, he may have been in a really weird place, right?
Haven't you always heard that these big guys are more easily found immediately before and immediately after the peak of the main breeding cycle? Is all this "baloney" true ... and if so, why?
I've offered my explanation -- breeding sanctuaries. Let me give you an example of such a place that I once hunted in Illinois (before "big money", a.k.a. commercialism, took it away from me).
Witnesses An Encounter
I discovered the spot by pure luck. I was driving down a highway near my hunting area one day when I happened to see a mature buck and a doe running across an open field. The two animals disappeared into a small 2-acre to 3-acre patch of "junk" cover alongside a pond. Always one for a good challenge, I grabbed my bow and began sneaking toward the spot. Slipping up to the area, I caught movement -- the big buck was mounting the doe. Crawling forward, I attempted a shot -- unsuccessfully. The two animals quickly departed, headed for the distant riverbottom cover. Quickly, finding a suitable tree, I hurriedly placed a stand and climbed aboard. Not a deer showed for the remainder of the day.
The following morning found me perched in the same tree well before first light. At approximately 10 a.m., the same buck -- and possibly the same doe -- showed up. In less than five minutes I was standing over a 160-inch trophy. Was this his breeding "hidey-hole?" Was all this just happenstance ... pure luck? Well, the next year, I took two more mature bucks from the same small patch of cover. They were taken during the peak-breeding season, and both were with lone does. Go figure!
I currently shoot Mathews bows, and use Black Gold sights, Bodoodle rests, Beman shafts, and Rocky Mountain Broadheads. I also rely heavily on clothing from Scent-Lok, and The Heater Body Suit, back/day/fanny packs from Badlands, and blinds from Double Bull Archery.
Please read more in Part 12.
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Eddie Claypool provides tips weekly on bowhunting for sportsmansguide.com. He says he would like to be viewed as a blue-collar, do-it-yourself bowhunter. "I focus on the species that are most accessible to the average, do-it-yourself bowhunters of our sport," he explains. He's taken 40-plus animals large enough to qualify for the Pope & Young recordbook -- more than two dozen of those whitetails -- none of which were taken on a guided hunts, or "managed/elite" properties. More than half of his trophies have come from public lands. "With a lot of dedication -- and a little time and money -- anyone can accomplish top-end bowhunting success just as I've done," Claypool says.