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Stinkin' Up the Place

Friday, January 18, 2019

Who goes there? 

 My friend Geoff Heeter introduced me to the concept of spread in antlers. A buck has to be 31/2 or 4 1/2 years old before the antlers spread beyond the span of the ears. I think I have that right. You can see that, while this one has a high crown and long tines, the antlers still spread no further than the ears do. This is not something I've picked up on before. I mean, I knew a wide spread meant an older buck, but I didn't know the numbers. Thank you, Heets.

I didn't know at first what brought them, these bucks, walking proudly through the meadow of another gray morning. All I knew was to praise them and start shooting, or rather, clicking, gathering my trophies, my snippets, my memories.

First was a proud, high-crowned eight-point. Not particularly massive or aged, like the brace of beauties in my last post, but so beautiful nonetheless. Any buck is a great treat for me.

He seemed to be looking for someone.

By and by he slipped into the honeysuckle and sumac tangle, taking a well-worn deer road down into the woods.

Following a hunch, I hugged my big lens and skittered through the house to the studio. There, I found my little friend Flag, Ellen's daughter peeking out from behind the birch trunks. Flag was born in the spring of 2016, with a twin brother named Pinky, so she's 2 1/2 years old now. 

 And it became apparent that Flag was, in hunter's parlance, "stinkin' up the place." It appeared she was still in estrous, on December 9. She must be really fast to have escaped getting knocked up in the first rut.

On another hunch, I peeked out the west window of the studio and whoa! There was a buck I call TinyTine, lurking around the fallen pine in the backyard.  TinyTine is a ten point, but just barely. See that tiny tine on the beam of the near antler? That's his claim to 10 point fame. I've been following him for several months. I see him regularly at a corn feeder about a mile to the east of my house. And now here he was right in my backyard! His other nickname is CornHog.

Flag knew when to get gone. She moved down toward the meadow, peeing as she went.

TinyTine, you'd best get going.

 TinyTine followed, checked that stuff out.

Mmm. I love the smell of estrous in the morning. See his partly opened mouth? He's doing flehmen, passing the scent through his vomeronasal, or Jacobson's organ, assaying it for hormones. This area is a patch of chemoreceptive cells in the nasal cavity, just above the hard palate. TinyTine is huffing Flag's urine, passing it through his Jacobson's organ, testing it.

Flag must've passed his test. After all, it's #flehmenfriday. The chase was on.

This will be a several-part post about one magical December morning. I'll post as I can, when I can find a couple hours to rub together. It's a challenge to even get the photos sorted and edited, much less write them up; it's taken days. But I don't want to lose this morning. I want to remember it.


Do other animals including humans have something like a vomeronasal organ?
I sometimes draw breath in through my mouth to catch more scent.
Just curious. I suppose I could look it up, but I like to hear it right from the source--the Science Chimp.

Everything from snakes to cats to coyotes have it and I am convinced we do too. All you have to do is watch a chef or wine taster at work to know it. Of course there are those who prefer to believe we are not animals. Pheromones play a huge role in our lives whether we realize it or not.

Glad to see tiny tine made it! He is a beautiful beast and if he can stay off the road next year he will be even more spectacular. I bet he has that crab claw next year too.
We may not have the same vomeronasal organ but even humans can smell when the does are "hot" if you spend enough time in the woods.

I love the Turkey guy!!

There may be newer volumes on it, but Lyall Watson’s older book “Jacobson’s Organ,” as I recall, is a fun read on the subject of the power of scent/pheromones:

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