January 27, 2023

How Important Is The Rut To Deer Hunters?

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That may be best answered on an individual hunter basis. For some, they pay little attention to the rut while others won’t make a move without first knowing at what stage of the rut they think the buck is in.

The stories abound when it comes to the rut. For those who may not know, the rut is a cyclical time during the fall of the year when a buck deer goes looking for doe deer to mate with.

For as many stories as there are, there are just about as many theories used to support them. Many swear that the rut is brought on by cold weather. Others think it doesn’t occur until the doe comes into estrous causing the male deer to do strange things. Is it the current phase of the moon? Does it happen just before, during or after a full moon in November? Is it set off when the deer begin eating certain foods?

According to Matt Knox, a deer biologist with the Department of Game and Fish in Virginia, the rut happens just about the same time every year. It varies but ever so slightly and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t last very long either.

Knox says that the rut is triggered by the change of light in the fall of the year. This change lets the buck deer’s pituitary glands know something is up. At this time the pituitary stimulates the release of testosterone, a male sex hormone produced in the testes.

But I know you want to say that back in 1948 I remember the rut happened……or in 2002 it came real late and it was a warm fall. Can this be true? Perhaps….er, uh, maybe somewhat.

There are some things that can influence the start time but these influences generally are local to a specific area. What can have an influence is the health of the bucks in a given area or the overall age. A group of good healthy bucks will be ready to go immediately. A mature healthy buck can begin a bit earlier and experience an intense rut.

In reality, based on scientific studies, the rut will happen in your area just about the same time every year. Of course differences in the light change within time zones I would assume reflects a slightly different onset of the rut.

Matt Knox says in Virginia it is at its peak about mid-November. He claims that if you study the results of when big bucks are shot, it will reveal that year after year, it happens at the same time – at the peak of the rut.

When is the rut where you live and do you pay close or little attention to it?

Tom Remington