It’s that time of year when whitetail deer are more active in the woods and fields. “The rut” is a good time for hunters … but not so much for drivers.
As we get closer to the deer-gun season, which opens Nov. 28, we’re also coming up on “the rut.” A few days ago I was mentioning “the rut” in conversation and someone asked me what I was talking about. Obviously this person was not a deer hunter and didn’t know much about the habits of whitetails.
In the simplest terms, it’s the breeding season. There can be a rut for other species – elk, antelope, even sheep – but around these parts, the rut means deer.
So what happens during “the rut?” I’ve seen several ideas about reasons for “the rut” and its timing. Many folks feel it is triggered by the shorter days.
It is also believed that the rut peaks during the “rutting moon,” or the second full moon of October or perhaps early November. The average peak day for the whitetail rut in the Midwest is Nov. 13. It lasts about 3 weeks.
There is a 72-hour period when does go into estrus (“heat”) and, of course, the bucks know it. Since bucks seem to have only one thing on their minds, they lose some of their defensive instincts, making them easier to hunt, but also easier to hit on roadways.
Before the rut begins, there are signs in the woods that can help hunters discover places to hunt. Look for trails where a buck has rubbed trees and has left scrapes in the ground, marking his territory and attracting does. Places like that are usually good spots for blinds or treestands.
The pre-rut period is also a time when bucks will battle for domination. Older bucks will try to keep younger bucks away from does. It’s mostly pushing and shoving, but sometimes they butt heads, literally.
A buck will service multiple does and a doe may be serviced by multiple bucks.
During the rut, both bucks and does will be moving around woods and fields.
“It’s usually a time when crops are off, so deer are more visible. It’s a good time to hunt, but also motorists should be more aware,” said Todd Haines, district manager for the Ohio Division of Wildlife in Xenia. “Early morning and early evenings are the prime times, but deer will be moving any time of day.”
Older does usually go into estrus early in the rut. But late in the rut, the young does — born the previous spring – go into heat. That means the bucks will be active from before the rut begins right to the end of it.
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