There’s a lot of hoopla going around about hunting dominant bucks. The problem is hunters see the deer as a mirror image of themselves, which is generally far from reality. We forget deer herds are a matriarchal society and the Alpha doe is the leader and most dominant member of any herd, not the buck.
Social ranking among whitetail deer is not always based upon strength. Dominance is primarily determined by intimidation rather than brawn. Dominance is generally established well before the rut while the bucks are still in velvet. Body posturing and staring are ways bucks intimidate an opponent. If the dominant buck has the largest antlers in the herd it is merely a coincidence.
We’ve all seen dozens of articles written about hunting dominant bucks We imagine the dominant or Alpha buck to have the largest antlers and to be superior both mentally and physically to all other members of the herd. This just isn’t true. The hunting industry produces at least a dozen dominant buck calls and dominant buck scent attractants. These are marketing strategies and have little to do with what’s going on in the woods.
All bucks are territorial. They mark these territories by rubbing trees, making ground scrapes, and pissing all over the place. However, big bucks don’t necessarily have the same territories. Rather their territories overlap. A buck might be an Alpha in part of his territory and a Beta in the rest.
What truly is a dominant buck and how does he fit into the general deer herd?
(This is part one of a series of articles on Gamma bucks)
I feel very fortunate to have been raised in a rural community nestled in the rugged mountains of Idaho. In my youth, the locals paid little attention to game laws and seasons. Back then everyone hunted for meat. There was a certain amount of red meat that was needed be brought in to get everyone through the winter and we hunted until that supply was met. Hunting wasn’t for sport. It was for survival. We killed a lot deer. Those were the run, gun, and grin days of hunting here in Idaho. I loved every minute of it.
Times have changed. Those days are gone. But I would like to thank all the old-timers who so freely shared their hunting lore and secret spots with me. The lessons have not been forgotten. Thank you all.