The Calm Before The Rut: Deer in August

6-point buck in Schenley Park, 4 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

13 August 2023

In the city of Pittsburgh there are so many white-tailed deer that it’s easy to see them in August. The bucks are eating, eating, eating to bulk up. The does are hanging out with their adolescent fawns in this brief period between birthing and mating. It’s the calm before the rut.

Last Friday morning I found eight deer resting in dappled shade in Schenley Park. My cellphone photos don’t do them justice except for this: The photos show how hard it is to notice deer that are lying down and not moving.

Four bucks resting in Schenley Park, 11 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

A few of them moved, however, grooming to shed their chestnut brown summer coats for gray-brown winter pelage. The photo above shows four bucks with antlers in velvet, each with a different point count: 4-point, 6-point, 7-point and 8-point.

Two does and two fawns rested a short distance from the males. The fawns gave the group away. They did not hold still for long. (The second doe is not in the photo.)

Doe and two fawns resting in Schenley Park, 11 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

One week earlier it was impossible not to see this six-point buck browsing the hillside right next to the Lower Trail.

Deer eating in Schenley Park, 4 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

He’s leaving a lot of greenery behind but the leaves he’s not eating are unpalatable invasive aliens called goutweed. The buck is nosing through them to re-browse the deer-food plants hidden below the goutweed. Those food plants won’t recover this late in the season. All the food will be gone and he won’t be back to this spot.

Buck browsing in Schenley Park, 4 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

In August the days are still longer than the nights and deer hormones are not surging yet but it’s only a matter of time and the Equinox before their sedate demeanor ends. According to the PA Game Commission, after 12 weeks of rut excitement from mid October through early January:

  • 98% of the mature does will have bred
  • 40% of the fawns will have bred at only 6-7 months old (city/suburb phenomenon)
  • 85% of the pregnancies will result in twins or triplets, some with different fathers.

It’s calm now before the storm.

Schenley Park suffers from its overabundant deer population. See this article for more information: The Forest Lives in Mortal Fear of Its Deer.

A NOTE TO COMMENTERS: Some interesting threads have developed in the comments with new readers weighing. Please note that comments on this blog are moderated and may be edited for clarity. Comments that could inflame others will be edited or deleted.

(photos by Kate St. John)

8 thoughts on “The Calm Before The Rut: Deer in August

  1. Scary statistics there at the end. Is there any way to know how many urban/park deer die in a year? Fawns eaten by coyotes, hawks? Adults starving, hit by cars? Do you ever find dead deer?

    1. Yes and no. The hardest thing is to figure out how many die. PGC has stats on how rapidly the population grows. More statistics to come in the days ahead.

  2. Is Archery hunting permitted in Schenley Park? If the park is being overran with deer, does the PGC ever plan on a culling of the herd?

    1. Excellent comment, William. At this point the City of Pittsburgh does not allow hunting in city parks. That law would have to change before anything can happen. I think (but I might be wrong) that PA Game Commission requires public hunting to be allowed first before a cull can be done. So the municipal law has to change.

  3. Ill never understand why area’s with huge deer populations are not opened to archery hunting. State gets paid to help lower the high population problem, not as many car accidents. Seems like states would rather “pay” helicopter hunters .Need fresh thinking in wildlife management.

    1. Ken, the issue about not-open-to-hunting is at the municipal level; hunting is ok at the the State level (PA Game Commission). Municipal “no hunting” laws (city / township / borough) were written before there were any deer in those municipalities. Now that there are way too many deer, the municipalities (such as City of Pittsburgh) have to change. This PA Game Commission document (link below) tells communities how to do it or at least where to begin. I hope Pittsburgh will begin soon!

  4. I have to wonder if the pa game commission has ever seriously considered a second buck tag? We can take 2 spring gobblers but can only take one buck.will this ever change?

    1. They will never issue 2 buck tags. If you want to cull the herd. You get extra doe tags. You can get up to 6 tags. There are way more doe then mature buck. Taking multiple buck will negatively impact the work the game commission has done. In the early 1900s the deer population was pretty much 0. Clear cutting of the mountains in places like Sullivan county and no regulations when it came to hunting. You can look up the years. Where they started with licenses. Some years they didn’t allow buck tags to be issued as well as doe tags. It has been a long road. But thanks to the game commission. I can go to places like gamelands 13 and 57 and see the work they have done. It makes me smile. I have seen more 120+ class buck the past 2 years. Then I ever have before.
      They will never issue you 2 buck tags. Only a bone hunter would want 2 buck.
      The real prize of any trophy buck is the story behind the bone.
      Your’s truly,
      The Fog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *