29 Nov 2006

Life Among the White-Tails

Odocoileus virginianus virginianus

I decided this afternoon to use the telephone in our second-floor bedroom, which features a picture window overlooking the rear acreage and (in the distance) the Shenandoah Valley. While I was chatting with a friend in New York, deer started appearing in the second mown field, just past the back yard.

First, we had a doe accompanied by four fawns. But, before long, an entire procession of does and fawns began emerging from the woods.

Their progress was too irregular for me to be able to make a good count, but there must have been more than 20 in the herd. Then, finally, in broad daylight, and right in the middle of hunting season, arrived the imperial buck himself, horns shining in the daylight.

He was only about a six-pointer. His rack was low and square, with short tines, so he was not terribly old. But he was a handsome buck, well muscled and in prime condition.

I took my eyes off him for an instant, and when I looked back, there he was, engaged in combat. A younger and smaller buck, who must have been a spiker, as I couldn’t even discern his horns, had been driven head-first to the ground. The 6-pointer skillfully used his rack to pin his rivals head to the ground, and was delivering a vigorous thumping.

The younger buck was not enjoying all this a bit. He kept trying to twist free, and escape his punishment. But the old buck determinedly pinned him down, and pounded away.

Finally, the smaller buck submitted completely, and the older buck grudgingly released him. Then his polygamous majesty stalked off triumphantly, herding the last laggard does and fawns away from the society of the unworthy ruffian.

The defeated buck was left momentarily alone, deserted and disconsolate. But, after only a moment, he gathered his modest cervine wits, and set off, slinking, again in pursuit of the champion’s herd of females. Who knows? Even alpha bucks have to sleep sometime, he probably thought to himself.


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