Ahhhh, the fall, when farmers are harvesting their crops, the leaves begin to put on their incredible show of colors and deer start acting like hormonal teenagers off to the prom! For Hunters (and biologists) this is the prelude to a time of year known as “The Rut.”
The Rut is that incredible time of year when deer start moving about hoping to find a doe and pass on their genetic characteristics to another generation. Just like our comparison to over-sexed teenagers they often become very stupid, careless and silly during their quest, which makes it the perfect time for hunters to harvest their Buck of a lifetime. During the Rut, deer tend to move around quite a bit more, including during the middle of the day, which makes it a lot more likely for a hunter to encounter them.
The Rut occurs at different times of the fall depending on your geographic location. Timing The Rut is something that hunters debate about constantly, but the key to this is always the same…As days become shorter and the amount of light per day diminishes, both bucks and does change their normal habits and become progressively more and more attracted to the opposite sex for the purpose of mating.
Timing the Rut would be so simple if daylight hours were the same all over, but they are not, so the Rut occurs at different times of the year depending on where you live. This does not mean that it may occur in September in one region and June in another, but more like during what few week period of the fall it will occur.
The further North one goes the greater the change in daylight hours. In Wisconsin the change in daylight hours is much more noticeable than a change in Texas or Florida on the same day of that year.
In addition to the change in daylight hours, climate change can also be a huge factor in determining the peak time of the year when does are in estrus; the period of time when does are most likely to mate.
Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom adjusts the Rut to ensure that when Deer mate, the Does give birth when their Fawns will have the greatest chance of survival. If the Fawns are born too early or too late it could severely decrease their ability to find sufficient food or experience enough growth to sustain them for their first winter. Having said all this, the Rut still occurs usually within a few weeks of the same time each year.
Okay, so what have we learned about The Rut? Basically, the rut is the time of the year when deer mate. They travel greater distances and this movement can occur during daylight as well as low-light hours.
Bucks act like silly teenagers during and prior to the Rut often engaging in fighting and marking territory in attempts to establish dominance and the chance to mate with select does.
Scouting for scrapes and rubs prior to the Rut should give you a good indication of Deer moving through the area and provide you with an idea of where to place your Tree Stands or Deer Blinds.
Although Deer may expand their range a bit during this time of the year, chances are if you see a lot of activity in a certain area, it may only get better during the Rut.
Finally, as those expert hunters that taught me how to be a better hunter (and person, thanks Dave & Dave!) you have a better chance of harvesting a Deer in the woods in the middle of the day than sitting in front of the television during prime hunting hours, so the best time to go hunting is anytime you can get out there! Have fun, be safe and do things the right way!