Whitetails mark holiday with Thanksgiving courtship

A whitetail buck, his neck swollen, pursues a doe on Thanksgiving, near the peak of the mating season, better known as the rut. (Foster Fanning)
A whitetail buck, his neck swollen, pursues a doe on Thanksgiving, near the peak of the mating season, better known as the rut. (Foster Fanning)

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a rut report from eagle-eye Curlew resident Foster Fanning to go with his photo, above:

Pursuing passions in the wild…

Had a unique opportunity to watch a whitetail stag in courtship with a young doe Friday. A ruckus in the cottonwood grove across the Kettle River from my home caught our attention. Three whitetail deer were running, the does flashing the ‘danger’ signal they are named for. Watching for a moment we sorted out that a large four-point male was in pursuit of one of the young does.

They had dashed down off the river bank, splashing through the shallows and across the gavel bar. The doe managed to double back and before the buck realized and changed direction she had again jumped off the river bank and made her way under a hanging rootwad and rapidly dropped to the ground and went completely still and silent. The buck caught her scent and doubled back himself but ended up momentarily losing track of the subject of his lust. He walked the riverbank sniffing the air.

About that time I had set up camera and tripod in my yard across the river. The buck as well as pursued doe, now in hiding, took note of me. My presence wasn’t enough to throw him off the chase, but things slowed quite a bit.

I caught this image of the courtship, showing part of the story; the buck in pursuit, the doe in hiding and the proximity of their courtship. End of the story, as far as we could see was the doe springing to her feet and fleeing into the brush, almost tempting the buck with how close she passed to him. Of course, he took off in hot pursuit.

It will give me a pause to wonder when I view next year’s spotted fawns if maybe, just maybe…

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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