Bucks Shed Velvet, But Food Is the Focus, Not Females

The owner of Western Wyoming's Wind River Whitetails, Mike Rinehart, utilizes a large network of game cameras on his sprawling Wyoming ranch, which has been under management for trophy whitetails for over a decade.

After having cameras in the field for only a few days this season, a day after telling me over the phone about the plus-sized whitetails on his ranch sometimes field-dressing 250 pounds, Rinehart captured numerous 3 1/2-year-old bucks on cameras this week, including this 4x4, all shed of velvet with "nothing on their minds but eating."

Rinehart's observations reveal no signs yet of anything close to signs of estrus, or any fighting or serious chasing among bucks--yet.

"The deer here have just come out of velvet," says Rinehart. "We are still having hot days and cool nights and the deer activity is limited to first day light and just before dark. The bucks are traveling together in bachelor groups and a lot of new rubs have shown up. Depending on the weather, our deer will not start laying down scrapes until mid October.

"This is a typical deer on our place," said Rinehart about the 4x4 shown here. "He is a very solid 3 1/2 year old. If he does not come up with a 5th point on one side or both by next year, he will become a management deer and go high on our hit list."

Rinehart seems almost to have to subdue a sense of youthful excitement when he talks about whitetails, and his efforts to improve the trophy potential and overall health of the herd on his Wyoming ranch. He and his wife, Teresa, whom Rinehart describes as "an avid outdoors lady," watch deer closely throughout the fall.

"We sat in one of our blinds Friday night overlooking a 20-acre alfalfa field, and a true giant came out with two junior bucks," says Rinehart. "I don't have a camera where he came out but will by the end of the week. Will keep you updated as time goes on. If it would get a little colder, we should start seeing some big boys show up on camera."

Whitetails have spread West with limited management from state game managers, but the trend toward private management of whitetails seems here to stay. The results are clear here on the Wind River as elsewhere out West, where whitetail enthusiasts like Rinehart are trying to maximize the potential of their deer herds.