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Members of the Cervidae family are mostly seasonal breeders. The deer mating season is between October and December, though for some species such as the Reindeer it may start as early as late August.
The deer mating season is the period with the highest number of deer related accidents. In the article Why Do Deer Jump on Cars, I have explained why the deer mating season is a reason for the increase in such incidents.
The calf’s survival mostly influences the timing of this season. Seasonal changes in climate and availability of food create a difference in the members of the Deer family. Some of the species begin their mating earlier than others, depending on their habitats. Males’ and Females’ behaviors, in regards to their anatomy, also influences the mating season.
Seasonality in Male Deer
The mating season in male species is known as “the rut’’ which usually occurs during October from the moment it sheds its antlers. Rutting ends after it separates the velvet coating from its antlers. In weak and young males, it may delay until December.
Since bucks are daylight breeders, darkness increases their testosterone levels leading to the growth of their antlers. Semen production reduces as the buck grows its antlers significantly. The volume of ejaculation and sperm motility changes gradually from pre-mating, mating, and post-mating seasons.
Libido is highest at the end of September and early November, their semen quality is also highest at this period.
Different Phases of the Rut
During the rut, the deer display unique characteristics that change as the weeks move. The rut comprises six phases, and in each stage, the deer portrays unique behavioral patterns.
The Pre-Rut Phase
This is the first phase of the rut and occurs in early October. The animals change their standard behavioral patterns to ones that best suited the mating season. Bucks are the first to show “rutting signs.”
They begin by digging up shallow holes then urinate in them. After filling the hole with their urine, they then roll in the concoction formed with the soil. This behavior gives each buck a unique smell that the females use to track males to mate, and also turns the buck’s coating to a deep red color.
During this phase, hunters set up camp on feeding areas since deer tend to hit areas with adequate food. The most effective hunting time being late evenings.
In this phase, bucks tend to search for the general location of females. Before the mating season, most species of the deer family group themselves in unisex groups, this groupings break during this phase as they break up to find mating partners.
They wander during the day in search of their counterparts, chasing the females around, which makes them more susceptible to hunting. Morning sessions start becoming more productive. For high traffic, hunters know best to stalk around feeding areas and water points. Animals hunted in this phase are more energetic and enormous, as they are fully matured animals in search of mates.
Most hunters refer to this phase as the main rutting phase, since both the males and females are most sexually active during this period. During this phase, every buck’s focus is on making moves on females on estrus and not on lurking danger from the hunters.
Because of the buck’s ignorance, almost all hunting approaches are practical during this phase. The most effective is setting up camp on feeding trails. Bucks use these feeding trails to track down females that often use these routes, hence you will achieve higher traffic if observing these spots.
Deer calls, especially doe in estrus calls are most effective during this phase.
At this phase, all deer are already breeding. Mating pairs tend to hide under thick covers, making hunting of this species difficult.
Hunters tend to switch to hunting approaches that require extensive surveillance to catch worthy trophies. The yield in this phase begins decreasing, and only keen hunters reap enough meat.
By the time this phase begins, breeding in most deer is complete. Females not bred enter estrus, and they become more cautious because of the elevated hunting observed during the previous phases.
It is the toughest hunting phase during the rut, and hunters are forced to go back to more reserved tactics. Females do not leave their breeding areas, meaning that a hunter has to deal with the thick vegetation the deer is hiding behind.
The Illusive Second Rut
In some instances, this second rut might occur. The second rut is for the female deer that were not bred during the first rut. Most of the females that enter estrus during this phase are young fawns.
Hunting is easy during this period; however, the animals killed are smaller than in the other stages.
Seasonality in Female Deer
A female’s mating season is only successful depending on its estrous cycles. Most of them come into estrus periods from October to December. A hormone called Melatonin produced by the pineal gland is produced from the onset of darkness.
The does are daylight breeders, hence the production of this hormone. Enough of these hormones triggers the decrease of progesterone levels, and at the same time, increases the responsiveness of estrogen receptors. Low levels of these receptors have a positive effect on GnRH production.
Generally, their cycle occurs a few times in a year before they conceive. The timing of them conceiving allows for maximum chances of survival. Most fawns are born between early spring and early summer when there is enough food and a favorable climate.
Signs That a Doe is on Heat
Nature dictates that as the buck portrays unique behaviors, so does the doe. These peculiar behaviors are only visible when the female is on heat, and ease the process of the buck locating it. These physical characteristics are a result of the female anatomy allowing the deer to copulate and conceive successfully. When you observe the following behavioral patterns on a doe, it is correct to assume the deer is on heat.
Normally, a doe’s tail remains in a relaxed position, hanging downwards as it hides its behind. However, this changes when the deer is in heat; it raises its tail upwards or maintains a parallel position to the ground. Bucks are quick to notice this while in search of females and will approach the doe on seeing this.
A doe in heat tends to urinate more frequently than usual. The deer maintains a squatting posture as it urinates, hence when you observe a doe squatting several times, most probably it is in heat.
Unusual Bedding Areas
Deer usually move in herds, but once a doe is in heat, it prefers secluding itself from the masses. The doe selects a safe bedding radius where its encounter with other deer is at a minimum. They prefer bedding behind bushes and in ditches. Not all deer residing in these areas are in heat, but most of them are.
A deer in heat tends to bleat as a call to males nearby. The sound travels across a wide distance. Males are always alert and respond immediately to this sound. The can call is a perfect replica of what the doe sounds like.
Running at High Speeds
When in heat, the male chases the female around at high speeds. The primary goal of this exercise is not to run away from the buck, but a courting practice in most deer species. When you observe a doe at high speeds, there is a possibility of a buck chasing after it.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Do Does Run Away From Bucks?
The chase during courting in the deer species is noisy, and the doe runs away from the buck intending to attract more bucks. The males attracted will then compete for the female, and the winner gets to mate with it. The most prominent one will most likely win the challenge; hence the doe gets to mate with a strong partner.
How Long Will a Buck Chase a Doe?
A determined and robust buck will chase a doe up to 72 hours. Copulation will occur after the first 24 hours as the doe will have attained full estrous. During the first 24 hours, they chase after each other and partake in several courting activities.
How Many Times Will a Doe Breed?
During estrous, a doe secludes itself from other deer and is in constant companionship with the buck. During this period, the bull will mate with the doe as many times as she allows. On average, they will breed ten to fifteen times.
The reproduction understanding of the deer species serves a handful of advantages. It is no secret that there is more to a deer mating season than meets the eye, as seen in this piece. Motorists are advised to be cautious during the deer mating season, especially in places where there is a great population of deer.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.