This is the time of year when deer are on the move at Delaney. You may see them running through fields, crossing trails, or darting out into the road at this time of year, even in broad daylight. A doe bounded out of the woods in front of me on a recent walk at Delaney, and seemingly everywhere I look in the woods now, I see fresh signs of deer.
It’s deer mating season, and during the rut, the male bucks are spending all of their energy looking for females in estrus. They leave behind two easily-identifiable signs which you can look for when walking the trails at Delaney in the fall: rubs and scrapes.
Male deer rub their antlers on saplings, and the torn bark and shiny wood underneath is visible to does (and hikers) from a long distance off. If you can find one rub, turn around 360 degrees and try to locate another. A buck will often rub trees along his favorite deer trail, and you can follow his progress through the woods.
Scrapes are another sign that there’s a buck in the area. Look for a V-shaped scratch in the dirt, often underneath an overhanging branch that may have the tip broken off or hanging down. The male will scrape back with his front hoof, urinate into the scrape to leave his scent, and also rub the branch with glands on his head to deposit scent. Does will be attracted to the disturbed patch of earth and leave their scent as well.
I’ve been monitoring this buck scrape at Delaney for the past week, and each morning there are fresh tracks around it. In the video below, you can see the buck that made the scrape returning to freshen it up (at 7PM and midnight) and to check whether any receptive females have been in the area. Halfway through the video, the buck notices the red glow from the camera’s infra-red lighting, and stomps on the ground. Later, when the buck returns to the scrape, a second deer (a doe?) emerges from the woods, and the buck rushes off to investigate.