Walking along a path, I had seen two bucks lying side by side in the woods. One buck, probably 2 to 3 years old, I have frequently seen with a much younger male, who is at the very most a year old, both ages going by the size of their antlers.
Having settled in on a favourite log, I began to scout the surrounding areas for coyotes when out of the woods, came these two mule deer males, the youngest first, followed by the second and then followed by a third, who had virtually the same size antlers as the oldest.
They crossed the meadow and then headed up the hill to graze. And then the two oldest began engaging in what I would call "mock battles". Although antlers came in close contact on both sides and there was some serious pushing up and down the hill by both parties, as mating season has long passed and the biggest stags are no where to be seen, I assume this is play fighting.
I have seen the two "buddies" engage in this before (See blog of November 29th, 2023, "While You Were Sleeping"), but it appears the oldest has found a new sparring partner. Because of their almost identical body mass & antler size, they could almost be twins or perhaps just two members of the herd born the same year.
And as they were taking time to graze side by side during the "time out" intervals, I assume these sparring matches were a means to gain experience and technique without too much risk of serious injury for years ahead.
At one point, a small doe Mule Deer did wander by. The two bucks stopped looked at her & then returned immediately to another head to head. Well too little, too late, boys. The doe's reaction was just to keep on walking right by to where better grazing was to be had. Not the right time or the right buck. Boys will be boys!