Tarsal Gland And The Rut

Dwight D. from Maryland writes to ask about the tarsal gland and the rut. “I’ve been told that you can determine the peak of the rut by the color of the tarsal gland. Is that true?”

Dr. Dave Samuel

Both bucks and does urinate over the tarsal gland (which is the gland on the inside of the “knees”). In fact, there is a phenomenon known as “rub-urination” where bucks will rub the inside of their knee joints together as they urinate over the gland. There is no question that the urine combines with molecules from the tarsal gland, and this is often deposited in scrapes. In other words, most rub-urination occurs at scrapes. Does also rub-urinate over these glands. Apparently the urine builds up on the gland and this causes the gland hairs to darken. So, when you see bucks with very dark, blackish-colored, tarsal glands, you will know that the rut is on.

Studies show that urine and gland compounds of dominant bucks differ in composition for different bucks, thus, does may use this odor to determine who the boss buck is in the area.

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of www.sportsmansguide.com‘s content at tkachero@sportsmansguide.com. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.

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