Tag Archives: mule deer vs white-tailed deer

A Weekend in the Rut

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Mule deer buck and doe during the rut. All photos and video by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

Let me start by stating that I am not a videographer — no awards will be won by me. I’m a decent photographer and an acceptable (I think) writer, but I am fully aware that David Attenborough will not be contacting me any time soon for my video skills. That being said, if a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth considerably more of those words.

For years, words and pictures have been all I have had to go by when researching the behaviors of deer (both white-tailed and mule) during the rut, but last weekend I was lucky enough to find myself surrounded by deer acting quite rutty. So, in between capturing still photos, I made use of my Nikon’s video function. According to some of my sources, white-tailed deer start their rut a week or so earlier than the muleys and that seemed to be true last weekend. Whitetail bucks were running through the shrubs and over the hills like hormonal teenagers, but once a whitetail buck found a doe that might be receptive, he tended to her with laser focus, only taking breaks to run off competitors.

However, the mule deer were just ramping up. “They’re not acting very rutty,” said one of the other photographers as we shot different angles of the same buck and doe. The bucks would chase the does to see whether they were ready and receptive. There was a fair amount of thrashing at rubs, snorting, sniffing, stamping and performing the flehmen response. If I capture more of their behaviors, I will update this post. Read more

A QUICK GUIDE TO DIFFERENTIATE MULE DEER FROM WHITE-TAILED DEER

Mule vs Whitetail Buck head

The mule deer gets its name from its overly large ears. In its scientific classification, Odocoileus hemionus, the species name is Latin for “half-mule.” The white-tailed deer is Odocoileus virginianus — the later part of that title referring to when the species was once known as the “Virginia deer.” If mule deer get their common name from up front, whitetails get theirs from the other end. However, the majority of the time you see more white on the tail end of a mule deer, which has a very large patch of white, only partly covered by a rope-like, white tail with a black tip. Whether the tail is up or down, you can always see plenty of white on the rump of a mule deer. A whitetail, on the other hand, normally covers most of its narrow white patch with a thick, dark tail but raises its tail to alert, or flag, others of danger. To make it an effective defense mechanism, the difference between “calm” and “freaked out” has to be as big as possible. Read more