No doubt about it: this was clearly a crime of passion.
Fueled by a dangerous mix of testosterone and endorphins, and armed with a hefty set of antlers, the whitetail buck attacked and ripped apart one of my ground blinds. All’s fair in love and war, so it’s been said, and the buck’s lustful desire for love conflicted with my warlike intrusion onto his mating grounds and resulted in his destructive temper tantrum.
Maybe it was fortunate that I was not in the ground blind at the time of his assault, but on the other hand it would have been my best opportunity to bag him. Except that the vandalism probably occurred sometime during the dark of night, as best I can determine, so there is a real possibility that he may have bagged me.
The buck also shattered the PVC tripod I built to mount a trail camera alongside the blind. Unfortunately, I had removed the SD card from the trailcam a couple days before because a herd of Jersey dairy heifers and Devon beef steers was grazing the pasture, and I did not want the motion-activated camera to take another few hundred photos of bovines (see blog post 883 cow photos).
So I do not have any photographs of the perpetrator of what I am calling “the ground blind incident.” I am blaming an eight-point buck that has walked a path near the ground blind frequently and has had his image captured several times on that trailcam. It may have been another buck, but my ego wants to credit a worthy adversary.
The trail camera itself was thrown far back into the red cedar trees of the shelter belt, and I won’t know for a day or two if it is still working. Never liked that trailcam much anyway.
I discovered the wrecked ground blind shortly after sunrise. Intending to sit concealed in it for a few hours and set an ambuscade for the aforementioned eight-pointer, I was instead greeted by a tangle of broken spars and ripped nylon that would be useless until extensive repairs were made.
“Shucks!” I said. “Golly goshens and darn it to heck! Some silly buck has ripped apart my best ground blind.” Or words to that effect.
After hunting through the cedars for my antler-launched trail camera, I walked the perimeter of the hayfield to see if any other ground blinds had been similarly battered. None were. Apparently the buck resented this specific ground blind, probably because it was erected alongside his personal lover’s lane.
The ground blind incident was a not an uncommon corollary to the rut, that time of the fall when whitetail bucks exhibit behaviors that would be regarded as utter madness at any other time of the year. The male of the species, not unlike college frat boys or Navy pilots, goes berserk with hormone-induced mating and fighting instinct. Usually an unoffending tree or bush, serving as a stand-in for a rival buck, is the object of the whitetail’s antlered assault, but I have had two or three hunters relate similar ground-blind bashing attacks. Another of my ground blinds was battered five or six years ago, but the damage was not nearly as extensive.
The mad marauding bucks have no control over their behavior. Since the earliest days of autumn, when they shed the velvet sheathing from their newly grown antlers, their testosterone levels increase and they become slaves to the pheromones of any passing doe that has begun its estrus cycle – gone into heat. In that sense, the much discussed and little understood period of the “rut” is driven by does, not bucks.
What triggers the female whitetail’s onset of estrus? Biologists tell us the cause is photoperiodism, the response of an organism to seasonal changes in daylight hours. As days become shorter in the fall, the rut begins, with some variation among the doe population that depends on age, reproductive history, and the presence of available bucks. A well-grown, early maturing whitetail fawn born in the spring can come into estrus in the autumn of that same year, which explains in part the whitetail’s ability to maximize populations in a given habitat.
For a whitetail doe, the rut is intermittent, not constant. A doe’s estrus period is relatively short, about one or two days, but if the doe is not bred during that brief period she will resume her cycle in 28 days.
Depending on the location of your hunting grounds, the peak of the rut can be somewhat earlier or somewhat later than mid-November. Because some does are not successfully bred, and therefore resume their cycle, there is a lesser period of the rut in mid-December. One thing the hunter on familiar ground can count on: the rut peaks will be almost the same days as previous years. Campfire theories that the rut ebbs and flows with the phase of the moon, seasonal temperatures, or weather are fascinating but totally fanciful.
When the rut is at its peak, whitetail bucks throw all caution to the winds and become a little – or maybe a lot – mentally unbalanced. The biological urge to breed and fight overpowers all rational behaviors. This may explain why, although I would prefer a couple nice big does for my year’s stock of venison, I have as much success shooting bucks as does. The bucks and I, we probably relate. Crazy knows crazy.
And I was crazy-busy through the course of a long afternoon repairing the buck-bashed ground blind with a roll of duct tape, a staple gun, patches of nylon cloth cut from the blind’s window closures, and splints fashioned from tree stakes and dowel rods. Not pretty, but functional. At least until the first heavy snowfall.
I will be waiting, waiting, patiently waiting for the vandal buck to return, but now that both the November and December peaks of the rut are history there is not much chance he will redux his insanely aggressive antics. But he will be just as crazy next year. Count on it.