What is a "Whitetail Breeding Nucleus" as it relates to deer behavior? During the end of what has been described as the pre-rut, bucks that had lived in bachelor groups throughout the spring and summer begin to hang around the females of the species as a prelude to estrus.

What is a "Whitetail Breeding Nucleus" as it relates to deer behavior?

During the end of what has been described as the pre-rut, bucks that had lived in bachelor groups throughout the spring and summer begin to hang around the females of the species as a prelude to estrus.

This is that phase when we might see a few bucks, from say a 2-and-a-half-year-old and a couple of yearlings, chasing a doe around in a field.

But that doe does not run far. This is not "the running time" yet. The bucks may grunt as they chase, moderately hook branches with their antlers and rub-lick overhanging branches. But they don't do it with the same intensity that they will in a couple weeks. It's more like practice, or acting out rituals. It's the warm-up for the real thing.

Maybe it's how they get "cranked up." It's a pre-rut ritual, designed by nature to set the stage for the real rut. Maybe they need to interact as part of their social dynamics. They "act out" roles and synchronize.

Scrapes and rubs are actually chemical signposts also working as integral parts in behavior patterns, necessary precurors to the actual breeding time.

This party, the WBN, is usually comprised of up to a dozen or so deer and "moves" along from a feeding area to a bedding area.

Think of the WBN as a moving staging area.

For those of us who bow hunt, this time period tends to be "feast or famine" out there. Sometimes we feel like we can't do anything wrong.

When fishing, sometimes the bass or trout are biting and we are hauling them in. But try the next day, the same place, the same pattern -- skunked. What happened?

"Sometimes we eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats us."

I've run into a number of these WBNs over the years while bow hunting. The bucks and the does are not simply hanging together in a "staging area" but are slowly moving from their nighttime feeding area to a bedding area or vice versa.

This is not to say that every single one of the deer in an area are all together in one spot. But there seems to be a pattern here just before the rut or the "chasing time" kicks in.

And that's why it's "feast or famine," the deer are more "grouped up."

They bed down together, but usually the bucks will stand around where the does bed. And it is not unusual to find five bucks standing around three or four bedded does. One doe is close to estrus, the others are part of her family group.

They are "antsy." It's the prelude to the storm.

The whitetail herd's gun is loaded, and nature is ready to pull the trigger on the deer's biological imperative.

Cold snaps, when the temperatures hover near freezing in the Northeast and the Midwest, seem to motivate bucks to initiate some early chasing behavior, but the does, the keepers of the key to breeding, are not ready. And as the air temperatures warm up in the daytime, the whitetail buck's early nighttime rutting enthusiasm wanes.

The WBNs form at different times each year throughout the Northeast and the Midwest, dependent upon photoperiodism and fine-tuned by the moon's reflected sunlight.

It may be time for us to take our stands. But it's time for the whitetails to bed down and rest after a night of "partying" when the temperatures are cool (freezing) and just right.

Then, as the does hit estrus and real breeding kicks in, a number of different scenarios may occur depending upon the individual dynamics within each of the WBNs.  

Then it's the wild time, the free-for-all, the rut, the whitetail crap shoot; those of us who pick up a bow figure it as giving us our best chance at the buck of our dreams.

But just before rut, bowhunters often get frustrated with their stands and areas because they don't see the deer that they had been seeing.

Indeed.

If we are in the right spot where the WBN is moving, we are in the action and life is good. That's the "feast" part. But often we have chosen our stand site poorly and we are in the "famine." Doesn't mean things aren't popping, just not where we are.

Contact Oak Duke at publisher@wellsvilledaily.com.