A killer buck. This buck killed another 10-pointer a couple days before this photo was taken.
The second two-week period of whitetail breeding, generally occurring during the first two weeks of December, is now in progress. Only about 10% of yearling and mature does are bred during this period (about 1 doe per 2 square-miles), meaning, there are days during this period when there are no does likely to be in heat. Deer signs that indicate breeding is happening include:
- hooves dragged from track to track in snow, revealing a buck is smelling airborne doe-in-heat pheromone,
- larger tracks of a mature buck accompanying smaller tracks of a doe,
- a larger buck is seen accompanying a doe,
- a sizable patch of much trampled snow or soil where two bucks battled,
- a freshly renewed ground scrape, rare but renewed by a dominant breeding buck warning a trailing lesser buck to stay away from the doe in heat it is accompanying,
- a newly ravaged bush or young tree (made for the same reason as in 5),
- fresh and and old tracks of a large buck on a previously established scrape trail (few if any scrapes renewed) and
- spots of blood in deer urine (characteristic of a doe in heat).
For any of these signs to be a useful as a downwind or crosswind stand site, such signs must be fresh and taken advantage of quickly because does are only in heat and able to be successfully bred during a short period of 24–26 hours. Skilled stand hunting adjacent to sites where does and their young are currently feeding (sites with lots of fresh, off-trail tracks, droppings and nipped-off (ragged and white) stems of woody shrubs and young trees (or farm crop residues) provide better than average buck hunting success. Following days of bitter temperatures, strong winds and/or heavy snow, be sure to hunt midday (10 AM to 3 PM) during thaws or near-thaws while the wind is calm or light. Every deer in the woods will be on the move, feeding (browsing), for an hour or two.