The onset of the rut is an exciting time for hunters, and it’s a wild ride for bucks. In general, testosterone levels begin increasing in July, and they peak in late October to early November. I say “in general” because an individual buck’s levels can vary widely based on his age, dominance level, nutritional status, and likely other factors not yet determined. As testosterone levels rise, bucks initiate rutting behaviors such as rubbing, scraping, establishing a “pecking” order, and eventually fighting.
Fighting is expensive from a nutritional standpoint, and it may result in injuries or even death to one or both participants. Therefore, bucks have a well-developed communication system to establish the dominance hierarchy in a herd and minimize the amount of full-blown fighting that occurs. The system isn’t foolproof, but it works very well and it’s referred to as “posturing.”
You may be fortunate enough to witness two bucks displaying the body language of “posturing,” either in the woods while you are hunting or in a trail-camera photo. You might even see a photo of a lone buck displaying the signs of aggression that may indicate there is another buck close by but outside the camera’s viewfinder. Let’s look at the language of posturing, using some excellent images captured by photographer and QDMA member Hardy Jackson of Texas. (Click on any image below to open the Gallery view and read details about each photo. Photos are copyright protected and may not be downloaded).