Cleverly compares the annual mating habits of deer with those of people.
I’ll have to admit: people can act pretty strangely in single’s bars and other places where reproductive urges overrule good sense. But that’s nothing compared to a buck deer.
In the first place, he has the strange habit of growing bones on the top of his head. This is entirely for reproductive reasons. It has nothing to do with keeping taxidermists in business.
The antlers are a sign of virility, which he not only uses to attract the attention of the opposite sex, but to establish his dominance over other males in the area that are just as crazy as he is.
These strange appendages start growing in August, and, until they are fully formed, they are covered with a moss-like coating of tightly-compacted blood vessels. During this stage, they are fragile and sensitive. He spends most of his time avoiding trouble and trying to be a “good boy.”
This is sort of like our pre-pubescent stage. He hangs around mostly with other males and thinks girls are yucky.
All that changes, however, when the antlers are formed and the “velvet” starts drying up and dying. It itches and bothers him. So he combs his bones on soft-barked saplings and such until they shine, sort of like how we used to put every hair in place. These sapling combs are what we hunters refer to as a “rub.”
Rubs serve a couple of purposes. They mark the outline of his territory and strengthen his neck for fighting, sort of the way we lift weights and run a lot when we’re entering puberty. He doesn’t get into any real trouble at this point, but he is becoming mischievous.
After considerable exercise, his neck becomes muscular and swollen. He’s starting to loose his boyish fat and his boyish ways. He may still hang around with his buddies at this point and spar playfully with them, but things are changing. He’s starting to feel competitive.
He doesn’t openly chase girls, yet, but he does stop to watch them walk by, and he takes an active interest in competitive sports such as “displaying.” In the late evening, he and his friends come to the edges of clearings to horse around and show off. The girls stand on the sidelines like cheerleaders, but they all know something is in the air.
As the days shorten, a couple of his glands go into overdrive. Many believe that cold weather triggers the “rut,” but, according to the biologists, it is the “photoperiod,” or the length of the day that marks the opening of the single’s bars for whitetail deer.
Before you know it, women are the only thing that matters, and he even starts beating up his best buddies. He doesn’t trust anyone of his own sex anymore, and he becomes a loner, staying out late and looking for trouble.
This is when he goes completely berserk. He doesn’t eat properly. He doesn’t sleep much. He loses most of his good sense and survival skills and runs around like a madman. If we didn’t know better, we might think he was on drugs or something.
And get this: On moonlit nights, especially during or after a rain, he stands in one place and paws the ground like a lunatic, creating a circular-shaped depression. When he’s satisfied with the size and shape of it, he straddles the “scrape” and urinates in it. This is his personal seat at the single’s bar, and the rest of the bucks better stay away.
He chose this particular spot because he can tell with bloodhound-like olfactory efficiency that a lot of pretty, young women pass by it all the time, just like the guy who always sits at the end of the bar because that’s where all the girls pass to go “powder their noses.”
For good measure, he licks the twigs of an overhanging branch to deposit saliva, and he rubs scent glands located near his eyes on the branches. Then he puts his personal mark on his handcrafted bar stool. Like a fingerprint, he presses the image of his front hove right in the middle of the scrape.
Make no mistake: he intends to claim every woman in that neck of the woods.
His behavior is so bizarre that any female not in heat avoids him at all costs. Children are scared to death of him. The guy probably should be committed.
Nevertheless, we can’t blame all of this nuttiness on the boys. Some of the girls encourage his behavior and tease him mercilessly. They’ve been going through their own biological pubescence, and these changes have created a perfume that makes a buck’s eyes cross and his tong flick about like Gene Simons in a KISS concert.
The little flirts won’t come right out and admit their desires. Instead, they sneak up to his bar stool when he’s not there and pee on it–knowing full well this will drive him over the edge.
He happens back by to check his scrape shortly thereafter, picks up the trail she purposely left, and the chase is on. This dance can go on for days.
She runs like she doesn’t want to be caught, but she never gets very far ahead and she trots with her tail in the air so that the perfume stays strong in his nostrils. At this point, he’s so consumed with passion that he doesn’t even realize he’s grunting like a pig and crashing through the woods like a complete fool.
Finally, she becomes exhausted, and another Bambi is conceived.
When the rut is over well into the winter, the bones fall off the buck’s head, and, like a balding man, he regains his sanity and wisdom.
Problem is, bucks go through this every year of their lives. I’m just grateful I’m human and only had to go through it once.