In less than three weeks, serious (and not so serious) archery big game hunters will need to make every effort to spend as much time in the woods as possible – the “rut” will be on.
The “rut” is when bucks (male whitetail deer, preferably with antlers) throw caution to the wind and seek out receptive does – wherever they may be. It’s the perfect time to be out in the woods. It’s also a good time to keep your vehicles in the garage. Deer-car collisions ramp up considerably when love is in the air among the deer population.
“If you were going to pick one week of vacation for deer hunting this year it would be Nov. 4 to 11,” says Charles Alsheimer of Bath, one of the foremost authorities on whitetail deer. “This year’s magical time is what we call a synchronized rut. A doe’s estrogen level will peak around Nov. 1 and the buck’s sperm count will also peak around Nov. 1. This coincides with this year’s rutting moon which will take place around midnight between Nov. 3 and 4.”
The rutting moon is the second full moon following the autumnal equinox. This year, it will be taking place nearly two weeks earlier than last year.
When those effects kick in, get ready to rumble.
Alsheimer has been studying deer for more than five decades. When he finally compiled enough information, he put together his popular book “Hunting Whitetails by the Moon” in 1999. He’s still a firm believer in the lunar effects on deer today.
“There are three other years that are nearly identical to this one approaching,” insists Alsheimer. “In 1998, 2006 and 2009 the rutting moon occurred during essentially the same time frame. It helps us to get a better understanding of what will transpire … under normal weather conditions.”
Before we dig deeper into the different phases of the rut, it’s important to note that weather can play a huge role in how deer will respond under these types of situations.
“Air temperatures will dictate how much movement you will see during the day,” says Alsheimer, also one of the top wildlife photographers in the world. “We’ve tracked deer movement and air temperatures for more than 20 years and we’ve found that in our part of New York State, if the temperatures are 45 degrees and above, most of the buck activity will be at night. If it’s less than 45 degrees, it is more likely to be occurring during the day.”
Wind velocity can also be a factor to consider according to Alsheimer. If wind speeds are 12 mph or greater, it can also have a negative effect on deer movements. When combined with warmer air temperatures, that’s the death knell for daytime movements.
“The ideal conditions would be temperatures in the low 30s, overcast, no wind and spitting a little snow.”
The prime chase phase will be from Halloween until November 8 or 9. Bucks will really be on the move.
“Seek out pinch points and travel corridors when you set up your stand,” says Alsheimer.
How far a buck will travel for a receptive doe will be predicated on how many does you have in your area. Deer densities will dictate how much a buck moves. The more does you have inhabiting an area, the less likely that the bucks will travel outside the general area. Hunting in a place like Erie or Niagara County is far different than hunting deer in the Adirondacks where deer densities are much lower.
“The buck most influenced by this rutting process is a deer that’s about 3-1/2 years old,” says Alsheimer, field editor with Deer and Deer Hunting Magazine. “The human equivalent is an 18-year-old high school senior. These prime deer are driven to do the breeding. A 3-1/2 year old deer in Niagara County has the potential to be 130- to 150-inch animals thanks to limestone deposits and nutrients. That same deer in the Southern Tier would probably be 115- to 130-inch animals at 3-1/2 years old.”
The breeding window this fall will be from November 11 to 24. Hunting will be much more difficult at that time because the bucks will be with the does, unless you can position yourself near a good food source. Keep that in mind once the regular season opens Nov. 18 in the Southern Zone.
Timing for the rut this year should also be perfect for crossbow users in the Southern Zone. Crossbows can be used in the early archery season starting Nov. 4. There are no new changes to be aware of for crossbow hunters this fall.
In an effort to help track the rut every year, North Country Whitetails (www.northcountrywhitetails.com) collects information from passionate and knowledgeable hunters throughout the hunting season. This year the first report came on Sept. 26 and the second report came on Oct. 4. It’s still not too late to sign up with the father-son team of Craig and Neil Dougherty of Steuben County to receive the popular blog. Send an email to Sharon@northcountrywhitetails.com or call 315-331-6959.