From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Learn How to Score Your Buck

Do you want to learn how to score your buck antlers?

Friday at noon, join us LIVE on Facebook as Pennsylvania Big Game Scoring Program Coordinator Bob D’Angelo demonstrates the official scoring process.

There will be a short question and answer period following the demonstration.

This video will also be recorded for later viewing on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Facebook page. You do not have to to have a Facebook account to view the public video.



Bubba Was Here


He’s of prime age and is available. He hangs with the bucks in the Yoak gang, but he is not the biggest or the baddest. He passed by on Tues. at 3 o’clock.

This is a lot to communicate, but deer can get this information from a quick whiff at any signpost. Bucks place signposts— licking branches, rubs and scrapes—year-round throughout their territory. Because bucks and does travel in different social circles, signposts facilitate communications for both sexes.

In the spring and summer, when tender new antlers are developing under a cushion of velvet, bucks communicate through the communal licking of branches. These branches usually are located over a trail or along the edge of a field, just above normal deer height. By mouthing the branch and sometimes rubbing it with their forehead or preorbital glands, bucks smell and taste “notes” left by other deer. Identities, status and social bonding can all be gathered through the nose. During summer, the licking branches are used by all bucks in the area, dominant or not; a one-stop gossip rag for all the deer in the neighborhood.

After their headgear has hardened and the velvet begins to shed, bucks begin tearing and rubbing the bark off bushes and trees with their antlers. Rubbing during and shortly after velvet loss is violent, as bucks thrash bushes to get a feel for what has been growing on their heads all summer. As the rut progresses, rubbing evolves into the more typical, highly visual buck rub. Once the rub is complete, bucks anoint it with their forehead gland. Some rubs are used year after year. Age plays a factor in rub making. Yearlings typically rub saplings no more than two to three inches in diameter, while a mature buck may rub trees six inches or larger. This work doesn’t go unnoticed, as bucks and does visit rubs.

The most complex signpost bucks use is a scrape. It is used most intensely just before the peak of the rut. A full scrape involves branch marking, pawing and urination. A scrape starts with an overhanging limb on which a buck will rub his forehead or preorbital gland. If the mood strikes him, he’ll even rattle the branch with his antlers. He takes the twig in his mouth and moistens it, thereby leaving his mark and detecting the mark of others using the scrape. Then he clears a 3- to 6-foot circle by pawing the ground, steps into the circle and urinates onto his tarsal glands while rubbing them together. Usually, only mature dominant bucks produce a significant number of scrapes. So while the whitetail spends its days in relative silence, plenty is being said. You just have to look, lick or smell.

By: J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist

-This article was originally posted in the Life & Times of the Whitetail.

What’s wrong with that deer?


We get LOTS of photos of deer with wart-like, hairless tumors on their brown coats.  These unsightly masses are more often than not cutaneous fibromas.  They can develop anywhere on the body (see attached photos).  Fibromas are caused by a virus.  The virus is an obligate inhabitant of a deer’s skin and poses no known threat to people or domestic animals.  Transmission is thought to occur through biting insects and possibly by direct contact with other infected deer or various contaminated materials that might scratch the skin allowing the virus a way in. 


While ugly and in some cases grotesque, fibromas are merely surface blemishes as they do not spread to internal organs.  In most cases, fibromas are small and resolve on their own.  If fibromas are large, numerous, or in critical locations (eyes, mouth, etc.), they can result in significant disease and death.  There is no treatment for fibromas in wild deer.  As stated the virus associated with fibromas does not infect humans so the only concern for hunters would be fibroma with a secondary bacterial infection rendering a deer unfit for consumption.

Lean more in the Wildlife Disease Reference LibraryFibromas and in this two-minute radio program.

By: J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Age-Old Question about White-tailed Deer

Have you ever wondered about the age of wild white-tailed deer? One of our biologists recounts some surprising recent discoveries in this blog post.

A few months ago I told you the story of Doe #151 that was spotted in a trail camera picture. After a little investigating, it was confirmed that this doe was 13.5 years old – tagged as a fawn in 2001 in the Quehanna Wild Area. Amazing and rare, right? Well, maybe not. 

I received a call a couple of weeks ago regarding another tagged doe that was harvested during the muzzleloader season. Data records showed that we first met this lovely lady in March 2003 not far from Echo, Pa. in Armstrong County. If she was tagged as a fawn, she would have been 12.5 years old when she was harvested. However, she was tagged as an adult. With no way to confirm her birth year, her minimum age would have been 13.5 years old.

But wait, there is more! A colleague received a report of an ear-tagged deer regularly visiting someone’s backyard near Kittanning. Are you ready? This doe was tagged just a few hundred yards away from there in February 2003 as an adult, which means she is closing in on her 14th birthday this spring. That is a minimum age for this girl. That means that we received two phone calls in less than a week of two does that were tagged a month apart in Armstrong County over a decade ago.

Our lovely lady from Echo won’t be getting any older but her “sister” is still keeping it real in Armstrong County. Ms. 151 may still be out there, too. That makes three confirmed reports of does in the last four months that are 13.5 years old from two different areas. Maybe I should start playing the lottery.

-J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission