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White-tailed Deer Breeding Season Winding Down

12-10-14  antler rub 195 The breeding season of White-tailed Deer extends from late October to mid-December. Fresh buck rubs, where bucks literally rub the velvet off of their antlers as well as communicate with other deer via their scent, can be found throughout this period of time.

Mature bucks make two distinct types of visual and olfactory signposts —early-season and breeding rubs. The early-season scraping of antlers builds up neck and shoulder muscles, designates a buck’s territory (both visually and by scent deposited from forehead glands) and releases aggression caused by rising testosterone levels. Later in the season, once the rut begins, bucks move out of their home ranges into doe territory, where they make breeding rubs. These rubs announce the bucks’ presence to does, and are thought to hormonally suppress small bucks to the point where their testosterone levels stay so low that they do not attempt to mate.

When a deer or moose strips bark off a tree to eat it, the de-barked area is torn only at one end — the deer grabs one end of the strip of bark and tears it off of the tree. The rubbing of an antler leaves ragged bits of bark at both the top and bottom of the rub. Staghorn Sumac, as pictured, is a favorite rubbing substrate.

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3 responses


    The other day, whilst out snowshoeing with friends, we came across a dilute patch of blood and lots of deer tracks under some hemlocks – not enough blood to suggest major injury, and limited to the site. We guessed that this was from a doe in estrus. Is that right?

    December 19, 2014 at 3:09 am

  2. Hi Elizabeth,
    I would have to see it and even then, I might well not know for sure the answer to your question. It’s conceivable that it could have been from a doe in estrus, but I’ve also seen deer tracks with blood from a wound on a foot. It’s fairly late in the season, but your theory is possible.

    December 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm


    The blood was not found in or around any of the footprints leading to or from the site, so I do think that it was a doe in estrus. Wondering if the blood would be mixed with urine, as it appeared diluted, though that could, I suppose, just be from the snow.

    December 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm

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