Fight or Flight

Two weeks ago in Colorado, just before last light, I spotted two big mule deer bucks circling each other in a field, stomping around in a stiff-legged dominance march. I barely got my camera on its tripod before they locked horns in a mad scuffle, which I’ve always found to be tough to follow with a big lens. They cover a lot of ground in very short order.

It lasted just a few seconds before one turned and dashed, the tips of the other’s antlers inches from his hindquarters for a least 100 yards. The pursuer eventually let up, but proceeded to follow him for the next twenty minutes, again walking like a constipated steer. I couldn’t spot a doe anywhere nearby.

After downloading the images, I realized the crowned victor was the same buck I’d photographed that day at dawn—one of the most handsome muleys I’ve can recall. His long-necked rabbit pose of the morning was distinctly different from the wrestler stance he struck to intimidate the other buck. The late November mating season is an exciting and fascinating time for these animals,.