Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.



Strange things happen before your eyes if you spend enough time outdoors. I am still trying to sort out what I saw this evening.

Sixteen miles up the road from my home there is an opening in the Allegheny National Forest. About a half-dozen apple trees are scattered in and along the edges. It is a likely place to see deer in the evening, so I have been spending several evenings there with the faint hope of seeing a conflict between bucks. One evening in August I saw eight bucks together under one of the apple trees. That bachelor group broke up once their antlers shed their velvet.

Yesterday evening I thought I was going to see some action. A 3-point buck was in the opening when a 6-point approached. But it was not meant to be. They looked at one another, then went about the business of eating. My guess is that the 6-point is a year older than the 3-point. Perhaps dominance had already been established, but only the deer know for sure.

This evening, the coldest day so far this fall, I was there again hoping for something more exciting. I was not disappointed, though what I saw I could never have imagined.

Sitting under the cover of a cluster of pine trees, I had a good view of the surroundings. After more than an hour my eyelids were getting pretty heavy. Maybe my eyes closed for a few moments. Then a noise that sent chills down my spine startled me. It was coyotes not more than 30 yards away. Among the eight of them was a small doe. I do not know if the doe had a fawn, or if perhaps the coyotes had killed her fawn, maybe she was a very large fawn herself, but in any case the group of coyotes had her surrounded and they were barking and growling in a manner that left little doubt as to their intent. I know it frightened me even though I knew I was not in any danger. Hunting coyotes is one of my favorite sports. But never before had I heard or seen coyotes so intent on killing, so ferocious with lips curled back, teeth showing as they opened their jaws and snapped them shut.

Here is where the incident gets really interesting.

I was trying to get a clear look at a coyote standing still, hoping that I could end its shenanigans with a 158-grain bullet from my .357 Magnum. But I was beaten to the punch. From a stand of pines a big 8-point buck (shown above) approached the doe and the coyotes at a slow trot, with its head and antlers held menacingly low. Apparently the coyotes wanted nothing to do with those antlers. They faded into the trees, not to be heard from again that evening.

As though nothing had happened, the buck resumed a more relaxed manner, then came much closer to me and started eating under an apple tree. The doe held back in goldenrod at the edge of the opening, but not far from the buck.

When the buck left the opening, she followed him, not the other way around. There was nothing in the way of breeding going to happen. But as they disappeared into the forest she stayed in the protective proximity of that buck.

What happened there? Did that buck purposely go to the rescue of the doe? No doubt it made an aggressive move toward the coyotes for some reason. It seemed like something out of a silly animal movie.

So goes life in the big woods.