Except during the rut mature whitetail bucks typically form loose knit bachelor groups. This was the situation we found ourselves in with our early morning SNP whitetail encounter. As the morning progressed the group grew to seven mature bucks before they began retiring to the woodland shortly after sun rise.
In heavily hunted areas where bucks are killed before reaching maturity (2.5-3.5 years of age) bachelor groups are seldom seen. This was the case in our region of Pennsylvania before antler restrictions were instituted nearly ten years ago. Shenandoah National Park is an excellent place to observe this behaviour as not only are the deer acclimated to human presence but with no hunting allowed the bucks can reach maturity and even survive into old age.
Bucks affectionately nuzzling
This pair of bucks may very well square off in combat during the rut but for now the affection between the two is unmistakable.
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