Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on January 15, 2013

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January

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Editor’s note: :  Anyone wishing to send a question for future Ask The Deer Tracker posts can e-mail it to, rgbernier@gmail.com

  

Q. – I have hunted whitetails for thirty years, and much of that time has been on snow. I hear a lot of talk about finding blood in a doe’s urine while she is in estrous. I have never actually seen blood in any urine I have come across, so, have I just not been fortunate enough to spot this or is this just a myth?

                                                                                               J. P. – Jay Peaks, NY

 

A.    I have ten more years of hunting experience over you and I’ve yet to see blood in any ovulating does urine. I have however photographed a doe in estrous that was dripping blood from her vagina. The coloration of a deer’s urine has everything to do with what they are eating and the amount of water they are drinking.

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For instance, the more hydrated a deer is the less color will be seen in their urine. When a whitetail is dehydrated, or when they are feeding on more acidic food such as acorns, their urine will be much more concentrated and appear orange. I once tracked a buck whose urine was actually purple. Initially, I thought perhaps something was wrong with the animal, but later learned that he was feeding heavily on blue juniper berries.

When deer are on a restricted diet, which is often the case during the breeding stage of the rut, their urine appears very dark, almost red in appearance. To the casual observer it would seem that there is blood mixed in with the urine. The reason for this coloration of urine is the result of the deer’s body metabolizing fat reserves in the absence of food intake. What is critical, especially to a buck, is not the color of a doe’s urine but the pheromones she is emitting during that critical three-day period that she is ready to breed.

Q. – Why do bucks lip curl, and how often do they perform this behavior?

B. A. – Bar Harbor, ME

 

A.    Every chemical transformation-taking place within both a buck and doe during the autumn has a direct effect on their behavior. From the time a buck strips the velvet from his antlers and testosterone begins flowing, he is ready to mate. The build up is gradual at first, but escalates the closer it gets to November 1. When a buck encounters a doe, especially if he is trailing her, his head is held close to the ground as he approaches her. He is making every attempt to smell her vaginal area. Usually, the doe will only allow him to get this close when she is about ready to breed. At all other times she will clamp her tail, get low to the ground and run from his advances.

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If the doe has urinated, the buck will stick his nose into the puddle, sniff, and then raise his head high curling his upper lip. This behavior is called flehmening. The upward curling of the lip concentrates the molecules contained in the doe’s urine into a pair of pinholes located in the roof of the buck’s mouth called the vomeronasal organ receptacles. This behavior quickly communicates to the buck if the doe is nearing estrous. Older, more experienced bucks waste little time with a doe that is not ready. However, younger age bucks that are less able to discriminate the readiness in a doe’s urine are more likely to harass does that are not ready to breed.

The frequency of which bucks lip curl during the course of a fall is subjective to their personalities, opportunities and rank among their peers. As breeding gets closer, the more frequent this activity becomes amongst all male deer.

Q. – How often do you practice shooting with your deer rifle and do you ever miss a deer?

R. N. – Derby, VT

A.    Not enough! With the exception of a few marksmen, I don’t believe any of us practice shooting our deer rifles nearly enough, especially under the conditions that we may face come deer season. Throughout the summer months I will plink with a .22 and shoot skeet. Both activities keep my hand-eye coordination well rehearsed. Because I hunt with a pump-action rifle, and given the fact that many of my shots at deer have to be reactionary, my skeet shotgun is also a pump. By the first of September I begin firing my deer rifles.

In terms of ever missing a deer, it’s inevitable. Everyone is going to miss their target from time to time; the key is that by practicing those misses will come less frequently.

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