Have you ever witnessed a pair of bucks fighting? Few folks have, but those who have will never forget the explosive action and intense physical force.
More frequently, what is really seen is a sparring match, just a testing of each other. When sparring, the bucks usually turn their heads sideways; it is more of a pushing match, and there seems to be no anger between the bucks. These “testings” are usually done by younger bucks — those in the one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half-year-old classes.
Real fights have tremendous intensity with an all-out effort to hurt or drive the other buck away. Legs are spread wide for leverage and stabilization. The bucks push so hard that they may be forced to their knees and may continue to fight from that position. If one buck gets the upper hand and the loser does not leave quickly, he may get a serious puncture wound from the victor's antlers.
These fights are over dominance and breeding rights, usually between older bucks in the three-and-a-half-year-old class or older. Most of these fights only last for a few minutes, but can last longer if both bucks are equal in size, ability to fight and strength. Eventually, one gets the best of the other and drives him off.
Most times there are not any real serious injuries other than minor punctures and ripped ears, but that is not always the case. If one is knocked off his feet, he may get a life-threatening injury from the other's antlers. I have seen several bucks who received puncture wounds in their jaws or throat area that eventually caused the deer's death.
These fights start when two bucks run across each other and each is trying to claim breeding rights of a doe or a certain area. It usually starts with the bucks staring at each other with ears lain back. They will also walk stiff-legged and eventually stoop with their heads and necks extended while circling each other. They may approach each other directly or by using a sidling walk. The hairs on their backs are raised, making them look larger to their opponent. They will tuck their chins in, showing each other their antlers, and often snort or grunt.