When being in a rut is a good thing

As we begin November – weather-wise, often the truly transitional month between autumn and winter – the shortened daylight hours trigger an annual phenomenon that serious deer hunters, and especially those seeking bucks, look forward to each autumn. That being the peak of the rut for whitetails.

Many studies have been done of whitetails' habits and breeding tendencies, and many of the prime facts have come from the controlled environments that exist on large commercial deer farms, where it's far easier to study the deer at various times of the year and under various conditions. Combine these findings with those acquired in the field under natural conditions, and we now have a pretty accurate picture on why and when whitetails do what they do.

The whitetail rut, or breeding season, actually may begin in early October, but only a few does will have come into their first estrus cycle then. That means bucks may be moving mainly at night, seeking receptive does, but won't encounter that many. The majority of does will come into estrus from late October to mid November, including some that will be experiencing their second cycle (adult does come into heat every 23 to 30 days and normally in three cycles each fall). As such, bucks will encounter larger numbers of receptive does, and this causes the bucks to be searching them out nearly 24/7.

Since bowhunting is the lone deer season open at this time in the Southern Zone, bowhunters' chances of having a buck pass by their stands within range is the greatest during this time. But the moon also plays a role in the peak rut period. A full moon provides more light at night, which stimulates increased deer activity, but decreases the amount of melatonin level in the does. This lack may cause more does to come into estrus. This is the reason many believe the primary rut occurs after the full moon in mid to late October. However, a full moon also causes deer, and especially does, to be active throughout the nighttime hours and less active during the daylight hours. And if the does aren't moving, the bucks often aren't moving either.

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