It is apropos that if a moment in time was to be chosen for a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde metamorphosis in a critter, the chosen time would be Halloween, and under the full moon, right?

It is apropos that if a moment in time was to be chosen for a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde metamorphosis in a critter, the chosen time would be Halloween, and under the full moon, right?

Happens just that way to whitetail bucks.

For 10 out of 12 months of the year, whitetail bucks are for the most part polite, even lazy critters. But when the rut, or whitetail breeding time, starts, usually about Halloween in the Northeast and the Midwest, older bucks turn into brutish bullies, obnoxious, vain and ready to pick a fight.

It could be another deer or a tree. Doesn't matter, it's going to get raked and gored, stabbed and torn with those wicked bone-white antlers.

As a rule, small bucks don't even look at a big buck at the peak of the rut, unless assuming a submissive posture with head down and tail tucked between its legs.

With flared hair on its back, making it stand straight out, looking bigger, the older, dominant buck will lay back its ears like a nasty horse ready to bite, and walk stiff-legged and with a sideways tilt.

And if the sub-dominant buck doesn't back down, there will be at the least a chase, and at the most ... a bloody fight.

For much of the year, (Februrary through September) these two bucks may have even hung out together in the same bachelor group; bedding together, grazing together, licking each other and even fleeing from danger together.

The change

Whitetail bucks physically undergo a change not unlike Dr. Jekyll's in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story. Most people think deer are deer, always the same, kind of like we humans.

Nope, whitetails are completely different.

Through spring and summer, whitetail bucks are as docile as does, in fact, moreso. A dominant old doe will often drive bucks away from choice food sources, lashing out with front feet. Bucks seem to most always back down.

Some have said that whitetail bucks are protecting their soft, brownish-black, velvet-covered, blood-filled antlers. One strike from a deer hoof on any soft antler in June could seriously affect the buck's ability to spar, attain a higher level in the "pecking order" in the bachelor group, and therefore and of highest biological importance, the opportunity to breed.

Bucks' necks in the spring and summer are so thin that a man can put his hands from thumb-to-thumb and forefinger-to-forefinger around them.

Incredibly, as the leaves change and fall, in that short time span, a whitetail buck's neck circumference will  double, triple, even quadruple in size!

One moment bucks are pencil-necked geeks. And in the next, all-pro linebackers.

This transformation is accomplished partly by sparring with trees and fighting with other bucks. But that is merely the physical expressions we see -- that and smashing vehicle front grills and their lifeless bodies littering the shoulders of country roads.

The substances that cause the change are huge natural rushes of newly created biochemicals pounding through the buck's bloodstreams day and night.

Natural steroids, testosterone, melatonin and other glandular excretions come upon them in waves because the glands in deer are timed by photoperiodism, simply the changing daylight and moonlight in autumn.

The Hunter's Moon

In nature, there are behavioral costs to pay for being jacked on chemicals to enhance performance. In nature, there is no such thing as "something for nothing." Lucky for us hunters, huge quantities of natural intoxicants coursing and fueling the buck's power also makes them lose their sense of caution.

Many an experienced hunter has said, "If it wasn't for the rut, we'd never get one."

Whitetails are termed "short-day breeders" and their breeding cycles are timed by photoperiodism, the amount of light striking their pineal gland through their eyes.

Down through time, whitetails' breeding time in the Northeast and the Midwest, timed by the Hunter's Moon that is often around Halloween, means the best chance for fawn survival and recruitment (a mid-May fawn drop.)

No wonder the full moon around Halloween is called The Hunter's Moon. It's when the whitetail bucks are transformed.

But soon, as deep winter sets in, whitetail bucks go back to their more docile and benign patterns and the bachelor groups once again form.

Contact outdoors writer Oak Duke at publisher@wellsvilledaily.com.