Being Tracked ~ A Buck’s Perspective

Posted on January 5, 2021



Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles in the heavens; they chased us on the mountains;
they lay wait for us in the wilderness. – Lamentations 4:19



Whitetail deer have little ability to reason; their lives are lived in the here and now. The attributes they possess are the very defense mechanisms that keep them alive. And based upon circumstance, how well they do at using these senses and perhaps a bit of graceless luck will predicate as to how long they survive. When it comes to mature bucks, those that have four seasons or more behind them become ever elusive and wise to their chief predator, man. A buck that has been run on numerous occasions by hearty human trackers knows full well how to play the game and play it right. Were it not for forces much greater than even the antlered beast can ignore, we may have a great deal more elderly bucks succumbing to old age rather than leaden harbingers. The following account could easily be drafted from the very mind of the buck being followed as we pick up the story from here…

For no apparent reason, none that could be distinguished anyway, the buck arose from his comfortable resting spot, a secretive hide away located well up the mountain and far removed from any chance intrusions by man. In the blackness of this predawn hour, the buck stretches himself, spreads his rear legs and urinates into the very oval that just a moment ago was his bed. Yellow dots stain the snow between his legs as he casually strides to a dead fall and begins sampling the mushrooms growing out from the rotting timber.



Suddenly and without warning, the silence is shattered with the shrill howl of a coyote signaling to her young that she has succeeded in her hunting endeavors. The buck snaps his head erect, cocks his ears and stands statuesquely still, listening intently. Several minutes elapse before the buck becomes comfortable enough to relax his rigid posture. Other than the faint grating sound of snow hitting bare tree branches, all is silent again.

The buck shakes the accumulated white debris from his coat, flicks his ears and begins to descend from his mountain top lair. Quartering slightly into the breeze, he heads directly towards a family unit of does. Guided solely by his nose, the buck approaches a bedded doe and her two yearlings. Instinctively, the female jumps to her feet and quickly bounds into a thick tangle of second growth whips. With his nose close to the ground and neck outstretched, much like a German Short Hair sneaking up on an unsuspecting quail, the buck gingerly approaches the vacated bed and inhales. After processing the residue scent, he surmises she is not yet ready to breed. Reluctant to give up, he now focuses his attention towards the two adolescent deer who, until now have been watching the males every move. The buck instantly begins to dogtrot towards the two bewildered deer. In unison the pair dives into the brush scurrying to stay well out of the buck’s reach. Undaunted by this rude reception, the buck arrogantly swaggers down the incline.



The gently falling snow diffuses morning’s first light as the buck reaches the edge of a road. Cautiously he stops, remaining concealed by the roadside cover. His soft brown eyes scan the vicinity for any unexpected danger. His ears bend to catch each diminutive noise. Nervously, the buck moistens the pad of his nostrils several times with his tongue, enabling himself to catch each scent in the fickle breeze. With the swish of his tail the buck hastily lumbers across the logging road leaving his indelible track in the virgin white tapestry.

The noise from the pick-up’s engine could be heard long before it came into view. Upon reaching the bend in the road, the very place the buck had crossed, the vehicle came to a sudden stop. Both passengers vault out simultaneously to view the spoor in the roadway. After scrutinizing the track for several moments, a very excited huntsman grabs his weapon, takes a compass bearing and sets out to dog these slots.



The buck, unaware that he is now a marked animal, continues on his morning jaunt. Still smarting from the discourteous treatment he received from the female group earlier, the buck relieves a little pent up aggression on a four-inch diameter maple tree. As he rakes his burrs across the soft bark, wood chips sprinkle the snow. The naked limbs swish back and forth hitting him in the face and neck, which only fuels his intensity. Satisfied with his performance, he proudly raises his head with a defiant posture and checks his surroundings. And then, as if on a switch, there is a sudden change in his demeanor as he gently sniffs and then licks the fresh scarring on the tree. Taking a quick glance at his back trail, the buck turns, grabs a mouthful of ‘old man’s beard’ hanging in front of him, and then ambles into a labyrinth of fir consisting of spruce, hemlock and balsam.

For the erstwhile pursuant, the going is painfully slow and tedious. With each new bend in the trail, another obstacle has to be conquered. A blow down that the buck had gracefully catapulted requires the hunter to either crawl under or climb over. Fir boughs hanging heavy with snow become nearly impossible to navigate through without the white substance falling atop him. His sight is blurred by both the tight knit vegetation and falling debris. Despite the plummeting thermometer, beads of sweat form along his furrowed brow. The tracker’s emotions fluctuate from the exuberance of locating the fresh buck track back on the road, to a somewhat subdued annoyance at the route this beast has chosen. But onward he treks with tenacious determination and hopeful enthusiasm for a chance, as getting a chance is really all you can ever ask for in this line of work.

Meanwhile, the buck has intercepted another set of slots and without hesitation, sticks his nose into the depression. In bloodhound fashion, he begins trailing the dainty imprints of a doe with renewed vigor. A short way into his trek, the buck abruptly comes to a screeching halt. Every hair on him bristles and stands erect. Something has interrupted his passionate chase and now stands between him and his love interest. The buck’s attitude shifts from that of a love struck teenager void of any judicious thoughts to jealous, raging anger. He violently paws at the ground sending snow, leaves, dirt and all other forest debris twenty feet back. His head comes straight up as he begins to posture, carefully eyeballing the rival buck.



The tracker periodically peers down to insure that the buck has not taken a sidetrack. A while back the beast had circled and looped back onto his original path, which had cost the hunter precious time to thread out. He now bends over the trail like a question mark to study the prints his buck has crossed. The perceptive Nimrod notices a hint of pink in the urine that is staining the white landscape. He proceeds with renewed hope and a good bit of caution. He pauses often and peeks around each tree. His movements are now calculated and deliberate.

The rival male echoes a shrill snort in an attempt to intimidate the other. In response, the buck lays his ears back and begins to walk stiff-legged towards his opponent. As he does, the agitated combatant vocally emits several snort-wheezes.



There are sounds that even the snow cannot muffle when a hunter has sufficiently closed the gap. The huntsman advances at a snail’s pace. Each boot is carefully placed and every piece of real estate is scrutinized before the next step is taken. The suspense builds! Every breath comes a little quicker, every move a little more dramatic.

All of the buck’s attention is focused on running this interloper off and having the doe for himself. He is completely oblivious that danger lurks in the immediate shadows. His eyes roll back in preparation to strike. With heads lowered, revealing sharp ivory tipped points, the two combatants circle each other. And without serving just notice of the forthcoming blow, the buck engages his rival with an instantaneous lunge. The force behind these two combatants as their antlers meet is nothing short of a head-on collision between a pair of locomotives. Theirs is a battle not for supremacy, bragging rights or dominance; this war has been waged over the oldest and most common of all motives, they are vying for the heart of a fair maiden. As they violently push and shove against each other, forest debris is scattered in every direction. Guttural grunts, snorts and bawls are heard resonating from these two warriors as they scrap. Saplings are bowled over and dead tree limbs snapped as they jostle for position. And then one of the bucks begins to lose his nerve. Suddenly, his life is more important to him than the girl who waits and watches in the bushes. When it comes to winning or losing in this arena, it’s not how much dog is in the fight but rather how much fight is in the dog, and at this moment, the rival male has no fight left in him. As he disengages and spins to flee, the opposing buck races after him getting in a couple more licks before he disappears.



The huntsman momentarily freezes as he listens to the scarcely audible noise. The snow that serves to deaden his footfall has also muted most of the commotion raised by the fight. He looks down at his weapon and blows out the residue of snow that has collected within the orifice of his sights. Step by agonizing step is now taken with the precision of a tight-ropewalker. His senses, instincts that have formed from being in this very position countless times, tell him that his quarry is close at hand. With his eyes piercing through even the dividing asunder, he finally sees traces of brown silhouetted against a white backdrop. Slowly, ever so slowly, he brings his weapon to its well-rehearsed position on his shoulder. He cautiously snaps the safety off and fingers the trigger. Time seems to tick by excruciatingly slow as he waits for clear identification of the animal.

The victor has returned and now stands with his mouth open inhaling depleted oxygen lost during the fray. His gaze is transfixed on his prize that continues to remain amidst the thick tangle of bearded hemlocks. Somewhat recovered, the buck takes a few tentative steps towards the doe. This movement is just enough to reveal his heavy antlers and part of his broad chest.

Peering through his sight the hunter finds enough of a hole in the brush to attempt a shot. His mouth is dry, his heart pounds, and sweat trickles a path down his neck as every muscle tenses. As he exhales the gun is fired, and the bullet is freed to perform its duty.



The sky has darkened to a leaden gray as snow begins to gently fall once again. Serenity has returned to the forest!

All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier
© 2021 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.



















Posted in: Whitetail Deer