Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

And Now Let The Rut Begin

Polishing antlers-like this

Polishing antlers-like this

┬ęBert Gildart: Shortly after docking my jon boat at Wildhorse Island in Montana’s Flathead Lake, Bill Mullin and I hiked into a ponderosa pine forest and were amazed to see the number of trees in a small clump denuded of bark. Before us a dozen saplings had been rubbed so vigorously all bark from ground level to about six feet up was gone. These were fresh rubs, and deer had just recently made them with their antlers. The rubs indicated bucks were growing restless.

Though it seemed early for the rut, we were delighted, for when mule deer are preoccupied they are less concerned about photographers. For us that was good news, and Bill was so ecstatic he offered to demonstrate the way in which bucks can denude a tree of its outer layer. Though I thought of several comments I could make, Bill, as a retired USFWL Service biologist, took the high road, saying that bucks rub trees to remove the velvet from their antlers, which are starting to itch. In so doing, antlers soon glisten and their tines are made even sharper.

NO FIGHTS TODAY

Before long, we saw yet other examples of behavior exhibited during mating season. Topping a ridge, beneath us we saw a small herd of bucks and does. As we descended we watched two bucks of disproportionate sizes seeking the affections of one of the does. Though no fight resulted, the much larger buck suddenly turned on the smaller.

Scampering off, head down, the vanquished demonstrated that in nature at any rate, the stronger and larger animal is generally the one who will pass on its genes. However, if two males of approximately equal size meet, they will posture and possibly lock antlers in a dramatic pushing contest to establish breeding rights.

The vanquished

Vanquished buck skulks away

Like all members of the deer family, mule deer grow and drop their antlers once each year. Typically, mule deer have a main beam which splits or forks into two branches with each branch or tine being approximately the same length. Most have four-point antlers with secondary forks arising from these branches. White-tailed deer have a main branch off which arise individual forks.

TYPICAL HORN DEVELOPMENT

This past weekend the largest of our mule deer exhibited typical four-point branching. The smaller vanquished buck had but three tines. When fully grown, males often have a total of ten tines, although atypical sets of horns have been recorded with sixty or more “points.”

Venting frustration

Mule Deer buck venting frustration on Ponderosa pine

Bucks use their antlers during courtship, but in the situation we watched the other day, there really was no contest, and the smaller soon vented its frustration on the overhead branches of a tree. We watched as it entwined his antlers in the branches and then yanked and pulled, creating a shower of needles and branches. He remained at it for close to five minutes.

While the number of antler points cannot be used to determine the age of a deer, with proper nutrition older deer generally have larger antlers with more points than do younger deer.

LIP CURL?

As we climbed even higher, we encountered yet more mule deer bucks. Once again, there was no fighting, but the deer seemed to be attempting to intimidate one another using a technique I’ve always associated with sheep, and that was the lip curl.

Coquette and suitor

Coquette and suitor

From previous trips to Wildhorse, I thought it unusual for deer to be in the rut at this time of year, and we concluded that the rut was just getting under way. I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can continue with a photographic documentary on this most dramatic season for the deer.

TWO YEARS AGO WE WERE IN SHENANDOAH:

*Fall in Shenandoah

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