The Secrets Behind Whitetail Bachelor Groups
If you’ve ever lived in a rural area, you’ve likely seen folks pulled over on the side of a gravel road once dusk approaches on a summer night. Often they have a spotting scope or binoculars stuck out the window. Heck, maybe that person glassing the fields was even you. If it wasn’t you, you may have wondered what they were looking at.
The answer? Bachelor groups. No, not a rowdy group of human males (although you may find them in a field occasionally too). Whitetail bachelor groups consist of male deer from a variety of ages. In populations with healthy and diverse age structures, older deer may form exclusive bachelor groups, and younger deer may form separate ones. These groups band together in spring and summer, and continue to feed, sleep, and groom each other until late summer. They likely form as a method of additional protection. The more sets of eyes, ears, and noses watching out, the safer the group is from predation.
It’s also theorized that bachelor groups form early when testosterone levels are at their lowest of the year. This way, bucks can establish a social hierarchy through non-aggressive actions before things ramp up in the fall. Once antlers harden and testosterone levels rise in late August to early September, bucks don’t put up with rival males anymore. Since rut-fueled fights can often end up in severe or mortal injuries, it’s thought that the already established order can avoid those situations.
Typically, it’s easiest to locate whitetail bachelor groups when they go to feed in the evening, as this is when they’re most conspicuous. If there’s a road or trail near your agricultural field or food plot, consider observing them from afar using a spotting scope or binoculars. If that’s not a possibility, you can also sneak in closer and either set up a blind or stay concealed behind other structure to do the same glassing. If that’s still not a possibility because of a very small remote plot or with hunting over mast (acorns, apples, etc.) areas, you could also install a trail camera to do the legwork for you. The key is to use the right seasonal gear to stay comfortable and not be so conspicuous that you alter their behavior. Any of these three approaches should allow you to pattern your group and find good individual bucks to target.
If you’re bow hunting in the early season, bachelor groups are very important to track. They typically follow very consistent patterns from cover to food and water and travel together. So if you saw a nice velvet buck with a certain group on one day, there’s a fairly good chance he’ll be with that group in a couple days. But the trick is all in the timing. Things can shift pretty suddenly in the late summer, and that buck may disband and become solitary and unpredictable for the next few months. If you miss this opportunity, you’ll have to switch to traditional early season patterning and techniques. But if you can pattern a velvet buck still in its bachelor group, it’s a thrilling experience you won’t forget.