Author: James L. Bruner
Everyone probably has a story or two about deer that replays time and again in their mind especially during the hunting season. My most memorable were those which involved “rut crazed” bucks that seemed hell bent on causing nothing but trouble. In all 3 cases below the bucks were heavily under the influence of testosterone and, for the most part, appeared to be blind to the surroundings.
The Foggy Buck
I believe the year was somewhere around ’95 or ’96 when I encountered this buck during an early morning firearm hunt one foggy morning in Michigan. Unlike other mornings I opted to grab a flashlight. Safety concerns or otherwise I really have no idea why but it would prove later to be a wise choice.
The walk in was more or less silent and maybe the cover of fog was more of a help then a hindrance. I had walked nearly 200 yards without making a sound and likewise, I heard no movement either. As I approached my hunting area all of that changed as I began to hear a lot of crashing. I had definitely spooked something. As I listened I realized that it was at least one deer running in a direction opposite of me but then again another seemed to be getting closer. No doubt about it. A deer was running right towards me! I’m not talking just towards me but on a perfect head to head collision course with less than 50 yards before contact was made. I grabbed the flashlight, turned it on, and held it to my side. The deer stopped. Whether he actually saw the light through the fog or not I couldn’t say but something stopped him nearly dead in his tracks. All I heard were subtle branches cracking but once again they were getting closer. For a moment I wondered if maybe this was a wolf or a bear rather than a deer.
I shined my light towards the edge of the woods from the field I was walking in and there was nothing. Nothing but fog. I don’t think the beam of light penetrated half the 30 yard distance through the fog. The cracking of the branches had stopped and I could now distinctly hear the sounds of hooves on solid ground. Now I knew it was a deer. I thought for sure he had stopped at the edge of the field and realized what was happening and began to stomp like a typical deer would. Not the case. The sound was getting closer and as I desperately strained to see movement, the deer appeared. A big bodied 4 point buck with his ears laid back walking straight and stiff-legged right towards me even with the beam of light shining right in his face. The buck was obviously in a full blown rutting stage and ready to take action. Whether he thought I was an intruder or not I’ll never know for sure. I raised my rifle supporting the forearm and the flashlight at the same time. If he were to charge I would at least get one good shot off! The buck walked within 15 feet of me before veering off to my left stomping his way back towards another wooded area as I followed him as long as possible with the beam of the flashlight. I made my way to my hunting area with an admittable fear that the buck still might charge from behind me through the fog and darkness. He never returned.
The Roadblock Buck
Another instance of a rut induced coma buck was several years later when I made my way to town for more provisions during the firearms season. It’s not uncommon to see deer, even bucks, run across the road during a trip to town especially during the rut when deer are moving a lot. More times than not they are nose to the ground following a hot trail with total disregard to the vehicles, using that same road, traveling by at 60 mph but this was the first time I had ever seen a deer cause a total roadblock.
I was nearly in town when I noticed a couple cars stopped ahead of me in the opposite lane. When I got closer I was surprised to see a deer walking around in circles in the middle of the road. At first I thought maybe someone hit it and maybe broken its leg but this little buck wasn’t hurt at all. This little 5 pointer looked like he had just crawled out of a swamp, dirty and as wet as could be, belligerently vocal, and drooling from the mouth! I can just imagine what the old couple sitting in the car were thinking as the buck walked within 3 feet of the drivers door and they both slid over to the other side of the car.
As more cars began to line up the buck seemed to become more bewildered and would stand his ground by walking up to several cars with his head down, ears back, and fur along his neck and back ruffed up like a rooster. My ringside seat couldn’t be better as the buck made one more pass which led him right past my window. His eyes, the drool, his appearance, everything about him reminded me of total drunken stupor that you see at a Christmas party from friends and colleagues. He didn’t even seem to be able to focus on one particular object as he made his way to the side of the road and the cars began to file through honking their horns at the buck standing there in the ditch. I doubt that buck made it through the season!
The Happy Hunter Buck
A few years back I made my trip to town as usual during the firearm season for more groceries and to eyeball some of the bucks hanging from the poles at local motels. Yes, around here many of the motels cater to a hunters needs by providing buck poles for their guests to display their bucks. We’re not talking small “mom and pop” places either. These are motel chains that you see in every city.
I had traveled probably less than 6 miles from my place when I saw a big deer standing in the road. Even from a long distance I could see a glint of antlers and sped up to try and get a good look. No need. This buck wasn’t going anywhere fast. He simply walked to the edge of the road and looked proud displaying a fine 10 point rack that any hunter would be happy to hang on their wall. Unlike the other road dwelling buck I mentioned earlier, this deer was a perfect specimen of health and, other than his swelled neck, showed no physical signs of the rut. He simply just stood there 15 yards from the vehicle looking back across the road. I thought “Why here and not my place?” Most cars whizzed right by the deer and honked their horn like it was an every day event. Maybe they were anti-hunters trying to scare the deer back into the woods? No idea for sure but back into the woods was definitely not the right choice.
The bucks curiosity finally peaked to the trail he began following in the first place and he faded into the woods. I hadn’t gone 200 yards when a shot rang out and I’m sure some lucky hunter tagged the big buck and has quite an unbelievable story to go with the mount that now hangs on his wall.
You just never know what you’ll see when bucks are rutting!