Master Buck Mating
Late July through to the middle of August is the most important time in the roe deer calendar; it’s the peak in the roe deer’s breeding season – the rut.
In any well-balanced community of roe, there’s always one buck that will mate with a disproportionately large number of the does – this is the master buck.
The master buck is the dominant male in the area. He will be the first male to clean his antlers in the spring and, therefore, have a combative advantage when it comes to claiming the best territory during late February through to early April, when the home range is parcelled up into territories. See Why Do Mature Bucks Shed Their Antlers First.
Possessing the physical strength, and adroit judgment, to select and defend the most productive domain in the area, is an important determinant in mating success.
Females in the pre-oestrus and oestrus stage of their reproductive cycle select the best domain in their range to court and couple in during the rut, and any suitable male frequenting that territory (which will inevitably be the master buck) is sure to get her attention. For more details, see The Female’s Home Range and The Rut.
Apart from occupying the best territory in the range, here are two other reasons by the dominant male will mate with more in season females than any of the other bucks in the area:
Firstly, although females can mate with more than one male when they’re in season, amorous does are instinctively drawn towards the dominant beast.
This is because female roe deer are mono-oestrus, so they only have one short time slot in the year when they are able to conceive. It has been shown that males of six-years-old – when they are in their physical prime and likely to be dominant bucks – are the individuals most successful at mating. Having a particularly well-developed body is biologically indicative of the buck having an increased likelihood of being able to fertilise her egg(s), as well as possessing favourable genes to pass onto their future offspring – hence their natural appeal to the in season females.
Secondly, the physical – and hence combative - prowess of the master will reduce (and in some cases, eliminate) competition from the other males in the area.
However, even after considering the above points– as well as those contained in the recommended articles – it should be noted that all non-fawn bucks are capable of servicing amorous females during the rut. In fact, the trail camera image shown in The Female’s Home Range and The Rut shows a one-year-old male mating with an adult doe.
About the Photograph Shown Above
The master had been courting this doe for the best part of a week, and having discovered their behaviour patterns, it was possible to estimate to a reasonable degree of accuracy, where their couplings were going to take place. It was then a matter of discreetly positioning myself in the appropriate spot and waiting until the pair got close enough to make the shot.
In this instance, I chose to use a long focal length lens and then crop the resulting image in order to make the deer sufficiently large enough in the final picture. Not disturbing the deer during their essential procreative behaviour was far more important than trying to obtain a ‘perfect’ in-camera image, which would have necessitated a closer approach, and brought with it the increasing probability of causing disturbance.
Traditional photographic ‘rules’ state that when there are two or more subjects in the frame, the photographer should focus on the subject closest to the camera. But, as you can see in this image, I decided to focus on the adult buck, rather than the doe since this image is about him and his dominating nature, rather the female.
Technical Details of Image
Shutter time: 1/800 s Aperture: f/8 ISO: 560 Focal length: 800 mm