Whitetail hunters—ever look at the calendar when you are booking your deer hunting holiday and scratch your head wondering when the whitetail “rut” is going to hit?
Here is some information on that topic based on the latest research from world-renowned whitetail biologist Charles Alsheimer (Deer and Deer Hunting TV/Magazine):
This year’s “rut” is supposed to be unique in many ways. For instance, weather forecasts are calling for a very cool fall starting in late October and unseasonably cool temperatures into November (due to a “La Nina” cooling trend across Canada).
Alsheimer also is predicting a “trickle rut” because of two “rutting moons” this year.
Scientific data from extensive studies of deer activity has concluded that the second full moon after the autumnal equinox (i.e., the first day of fall—Sept. 22 this year) plays a major role in does coming into estrous.
Normally, the first full moon after the first day of fall happens sometime in early to mid-October, and causes the “rutting moon” to fall early to mid-November.
This year, however, the first full moon happens on Sept. 23—one day after the first day of fall. This puts the normal “rutting moon” on Oct. 23, which is two-three weeks earlier than most years.
Because of this, Alsheimer predicts the “rut” will be spread out over the second and third full moons.
What this means is that some does will come into estrous around the time of the “rutting moon” on Oct. 23 while some will come into estrous around the time of the second “rutting moon” on Nov. 21.
This “trickle rut” means that overall rutting behaviour may not be as explosive as in some years because there will be overlapping phases of seeking, chasing, and breeding during an almost eight-week period of what is potentially two “ruts” in one.
As a result of the unique “rutting moon” situation, hunters will want to pay particular attention to weather, daytime temperatures, moon phase, and rub/scrape activity.
If daytime temperatures are cool in late October and through November (daytime deer activity slams to a halt if temperatures are above seven-10 degrees C), then you should see some big bucks cruising during the seeking/chasing phases.
If the weather co-operates, be out whenever you can.
Watch for those low pressure systems moving in and out (rain/snowstorms). It’s a great time to be in the bush just before a storm hits and just after the rain/snow stops.
If the barometric pressure drops while you are in your stand, you can rest assured that deer sighting will increase.
Also check the moon phases. The best time to be out in the woods is the dark phase of the moon (i.e., waning crescent to first quarter which occurs after a full moon).
Hunting the days leading up to, on, and just after a full moon seem to be much quieter, with infrequent deer sightings.
While the “trickle rut” prediction may make buck activity seem less explosive, the advantage is that it may stretch that rutting activity which causes trophy bucks to throw caution to the wind over a longer period of time.
Ultimately, this means that for us hunters in the northern part of the deer world, we will have a longer opportunity this fall to catch a big ol’ wall hanger off-guard.
Here are some of my predictions for best times to hunt the rifle season from Oct. 9 (opener) to the last day of the season that you should try and hunt this year (Dec. 15):
•Oct. 9 falls right in the middle of the new moon phase.
If daytime temps are low, deer will be working hard to prepare for the upcoming “rut” feeding often throughout the day.
The bright nights of the full moon phase don’t start up again until around Oct. 16-17, so get out that week, especially if you are hunting over a food source.
•Oct. 23 this year brings in the first of what may be two “rutting moons.” This means there already may be a few does coming into estrous.
You may see some seeking/chasing going on, with some does being bred.
The only problem is that this is the bright side of the moon phase until Hallowe’en, so pray for thick cloud cover to keep the lights dim.
•Nov. 1 to around Nov. 15 is again the darkest phases of the moon.
It also is the time in between the first and second “rutting moon.” What hunters may experience is lots of daytime activity with all three phases of the “rut” overlapping.
Rubbing, scraping, fighting, and some breeding will be going on.
If daytime temperatures are cool as predicted, this may be the best two weeks of the whitetail season this year!
•Nov. 21 ushers in the second “rutting moon.”
If the trickle effect, in fact, happens as predicted, then the rest of the does will come into estrous around this time and into the following week.
That means the moon will be in its brightest phase and that bucks will start locking down with does around this time.
It may not be the most exciting time to be hunting from a stand or blind, and you may need to change up tactics to see those trophies (spot and stalk, still hunting, drives, etc.)
But all is not lost. As the moon gets out of its brightest phase around Nov. 30, the bucks no doubt will be starved to death from a long, drawn-out “rut.”
Hunting food plots, feeders, or core feeding areas, especially where the deer “winter” up, will be highly successful.
The most worn out bucks (likely the most dominant in your area) will seek out food in an attempt to regain their fat stores before winter hits.
Bucks can lose up to 30 percent of their weight during the “rut,” so they will be hungry.
One thing to remember, and it takes even the most seasoned whitetail hunter a while to realize this, is no matter what you think you know about a whitetail deer, you eventually will be surprised by their behaviour and it will defy everything you’ve ever read in a book or magazine or seen on TV.
Happy hunting this year!