The whitetail deer is a creature of habit, and for those who learn and understand these habits, the photographic opportunities abound. Deer will often use the same trail between bedding and feeding areas day after day. Setting up downwind of these trails can be very productive. The breeding season of the whitetail, known as the "rut", offers the photographer his or her best chance at getting some shots of a large buck. Bucks begin their instinctual rutting rituals in late September, with the peak of the rut being around November 15th. Some whitetail does will come into their first estrus cycle in mid-October and, if they are not successfully bred at this time, will again come into estrus 28 days later in November. A third estrus cycle will occur in December for the remaining un-bred does. Scouting the woods at this time of year, one will find rubs and scrapes left by bucks. Rubs are where a buck has rubbed his antlers against a tree, resulting in the removal of bark. I don't rely too much on rubs, other than to tell me that a buck is in the area. Scrapes are where a buck has brushed away leaves, exposing bare ground. Most scrapes will have an overhanging branch that the buck will grab with his mouth and pull across scent glands in his eyes. The buck will urinate in his scrape hoping to attract a doe in estrus. I check these scrapes often because some will be freshened by the buck repeatedly. Sitting downwind of an active scrape after a heavy rain can be productive, since bucks seem to be anxious to freshen the scrape. Scrape sitting has been most productive for me in the week preceding the peak of the rut which occurs around November 15th. Most fawns will be born in late May or early June and are quite easily approached for the first month of their life, since instinct will tell them to lay still until the last possible moment. Never assume that a fawn has been abandoned. At this time of year the doe will frequently leave its fawn to bed alone. Fawns give off very little scent and their spots act as camouflage from predators, so they are actually safer away from their mother.
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