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As the days grow shorter, and temperatures drop, a male deer’s fancies turn to thoughts of love. Rather than spring, fall is the time for white-tailed deer romance. Bucks have been growing their antlers all summer long, protected by “velvet”, a fuzzy skin covering. In late August and into September, bucks begin to scrape the velvet off their hardened antlers by rubbing and scraping their antlers against trees, saplings, and other surfaces. “Rubbing” serves several purposes, and continues after the velvet is gone. Aside from scraping off that extra skin, deer leave scent messages from glands on the tops of their heads on deer signposts. These messages may be a calling card, stating “I was here”, or more details about the individual.
Bucks will then begin sparring for mating rights over does. Bucks spar by tangling antlers and pushing against each other, similar to arm wrestling. Some older bucks will tolerate sparring with younger bucks by simply standing still, and letting the younger buck push with all his might. Sparring can get quite serious, and two bucks will charge at each other, clacking antlers when they hit, trampling and kicking up plants and dirt as they try to force each other backwards into submission.
The healthiest bucks will be the strongest and have the largest antlers, making them preferred by does. Come late winter, bucks will shed their antlers, providing an extra source of calcium for some small rodents to gnaw on. In the spring, the antler process will begin all over again, as it takes most of the year for a buck to prepare for mating season.
Find out more about white-tailed deer. Click here to see the species information page about white-tailed deer by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.