Mule Deer Bucks — BFF For The Time Being
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One afternoon while we were in Yellowstone Louisa and I happened on a crowd of people standing at roadside. In Yellowstone that invariably means wildlife nearby, so we stopped and joined the throng. We were delighted to see a pair of Mule Deer bucks grazing just a few yards away. The deer regarded us with what appeared to be mild interest, watching us watching them, but not showing any fear.
Mule Deer are a western species. They are quite robust. Male Mule Deer can weigh up to about 300 pounds, although most are considerably lighter than that. On average, a male will weigh somewhere in the vicinity of from about 150 to 200 pounds. The males — bucks — often carry impressive antler sets. They shed their antlers each spring but immediately start regrowing them. As they grow the antlers are covered with skin and a light coating of fuzzy hair known as “velvet.” The velvet falls off in autumn, leaving the bucks with sharp and shiny bare antlers.
The two bucks were acting as if they were the best friends in the world.
They were very similar in appearance, with one slight distinguishing feature. The buck on the right of this image has nine tines on his antlers whereas the one on the left has eight.
The bucks’ friendship is almost certainly temporary. The Mule Deer rut (breeding season) had not yet begun while we were in Yellowstone.
Soon, the females (does) will come into season, and when that happens the bucks’ attention turns to thoughts of love. Bucks compete to assemble harems of does and the competition isn’t friendly. The bucks will engage in dominance battles, including head-butting, to decide who’s the boss and who gets the girls.
These two will undoubtedly go their separate ways very soon.
When I first saw these bucks I naively assumed that they might be immature and, therefore, uninterested in sex and fighting. In fact, these are mature deer with pretty impressive antlers.
Does are considerably lighter than are the males. Here’s an image of a doe that I photographed in another location, a few miles from where we saw the bucks.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x extender, aperture priority setting. Buck images are as follows. The first image made at ISO 2000, f7.1 @ 1/1000. The second image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/1250. The third image made at ISO 1000, f7.1 @ 1/1600. The final image made at ISO 1000, f7.1 @ 1/2000. Doe image: same camera/lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/1250.