I photographed this nice 8 Point Whitetail Buck Lip Curling (flehmen response) at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Buck’s lip curl to bring scent molecules from Doe urine into contact with the Vomeronasal Organ (Jacobson’s organ). They smell the air to determine if any estrous does are in their vicinity and ready to breed.

8 Point Buck Lip Curling

8 Point Whitetail Buck Lip Curling

I photographed this 8-Point Buck from my pickup while parked on the auto tour road at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. I had my camera and lens resting on a bean bag draped over the open window of my pickup. The buck was about 30 yards away, but seemed oblivious to my presence as he focused on scent-checking the area.

When whitetail bucks curl their upper lip up and back, it’s called “lip curling” or “flehmen response.” They do this to draw scents into an organ behind their front teeth called the vomeronasal organ. This helps them determine if does are in estrus and ready to mate.

As the peak of the rut approaches, bucks become more intent on checking for estrous does. I was lucky to come across this buck exhibiting this fascinating behavior. Seeing a buck lip curl is a treat for any wildlife photographer or deer hunter. It signifies rut activity is heating up in the area.

I’m always amazed by the sights and behaviors I’m able to witness and photograph thanks to the access the auto tour route provides at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. Lip curling is just one example of the exceptional whitetail action found in this part of Oklahoma during the fall rut.

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 500 mm f/4L IS


  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: October 21, 2011 (07:34:42 A.M.)
  • Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f4.0
  • Shutter speed: 1/400 sec. (as determined by the camera)
  • ISO: 2000
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Focal Length: 500 mm

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