Well, I am not sure how we got here so fast. But here we are again going into fall and for all of our deer hunters this meansthe yearly obsession with the rut. For those of you that don’t follow such things, (but may be curious about the bizarre behavior of us hunters) the “rut” is the mating season of the deer family, and it greatly affects the behavior and activity of the deer tribe (and hunters).
Loyal followers of these pages (I think there are five of you now) will recall that we have talked about the rut here before, but we need to discuss this again. As your humble outdoor and gun scribe I see it as my job to inform both the hard core deer hunter out there and those that may be family and friends of these hunters. Those associated with mad dog deer hunters during the rut may welcome any explanation of the crazy behavior of deer at this time. (And the hunters.)
Yes, it is called the rut and basically that is the mating season for members of the deer family, Cervidae, which are hoofed mammals, they are ruminants, (have four stomachs) and the males grow antlers (not horns) every year which drop off after the mating season and then the growing process starts all over again. Besides the whitetail deer, some of the other members of this family are mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, fallow, and red deer.
During the rut male deer display many bizarre behaviors to include rubbing antlers on trees, some will wallow in mud and dust, sparring and fighting with other male deer, and herding females together. (Much like 20 to 30 year old male humans in a Saturday night bar.)
Deer hunters know that the rut is the best time to take a big buck deer. Like two year old turkey gobblers (and again, many human males) the wariest old buck will throw caution out the window during mating season. Deer hunters want to be out there, on a stand during the peak of the rut. Many will sacrifice job security and any form of marital bliss they may have had to be in the woods at this time. Although it is dependent on your geographical area as to when the peak of the rut happens, (and the best time to deer hunt) most hunters will agree this happens in early to mid-November. This timing is very important as we will discuss here in a minute. An exception to this time period would be in the deep south where hunters report a rut occurring as late as January in Alabama and Mississippi.
Now this timing thing, predicting and declaring which actual day or two during the rut will be the absolute best for actual buck activity, has become quite a craze in the deer hunting world. Deer experts and outdoor writers (not necessarily the same thing) go to great lengths to pin down the exact day for the blessed event. About now all of the outdoor and hunting magazines, web sites, blog posts and pod casts will startfeaturing stories about the best days of the rut to hunt. They will be very specific and will say something like “October 31st, November 7, 15 and the 24th are the absolute best days of the rut. Do everything you can to be in the woods on these days; don’t let work, family events, or anything else keep you from hunting on these dates as this is when the big bucks will appear.” Some may make a bold, rock solid prophecy on one single day. It will go something like “Be in the woods on November 9th or sell all your gear and quit deer hunting.”
Many deer hunters will take all this as gospel and will abandon all to climb up in a tree on these dates. Some will lose jobs for missed work and suffer all kinds of domestic problems for missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, and other minor (to them) events. All of this to be in the woods to see a big, stinky buck deer run past them chasing a doe. (It’s a deer hunter thing.)
So how are these banner days for the rut discovered and predicted? How do the experts know? Well, I could say something mean like “They don’t”. But in truth some of these guys spend a lot of time studying deer, consulting weather, deer activity records, and kill records from past seasons. As I have told you before it may be more related to daylight savings time, consulting what the wooly worm says, and who wins the World Series.
Please don’t take me having a little fun with the rut as being disrespectful to deer hunting and hunters. I know that the rut is important. My observations on all this are probably rooted in the belief that we sometimes take things too seriously. Tune in next time for an update on the status of coyotes, mountain lions, and the ingredients of potted meat.