The goal of every deer hunter is to be in his or her tree stand when a big buck walks past. Figuring out when that is most likely to happen is something deer hunters have been trying to figure out for years.
Anybody that has spent time in the woods in late October or early November knows that when the whitetail rut kicks in, the chances of a big buck wondering past increase greatly. Bucks, who were mostly nocturnal in September and early October, all of sudden are on their feet looking for love during daylight hours.
Most hunters would love to be able to spend every waking hour in the deer woods during the whitetail rut, but reality says we have jobs to work and other responsibilities that need our attention. For those people who may only have a few days of vacation that they can dedicate to hunting the rut, making sure that vacation lines up with peak rutting activity can be pretty important.
There have been a number of different studies on the factors that decide when peak rutting activity occurs each year. Some believe the moon is the biggest factor, but according to a story by Lindsay Thomas Jr., who is the Director of Communications for the Quality Deer Management Association, there is no such link.
Thomas sites a study done by the New Brunswick DNR from 1997 to 2005 in which fetal measurements were taken from pregnant road-killed does. These measurements, which came from over 1,600 does, allowed biologists to determine a precise conception date. The result of the study found that most does were bred around the same day – around Nov. 28 in New Brunswick – despite varying moon cycles over the nine-year period.
The results of this study would suggest that the amount of daylight in each day is what truly decides when peak rutting activity occurs. That would mean the peak of the rut would occur roughly at the same time each year.
A similar study done in Missouri found that most does there were bred around Nov. 15. That date is probably pretty close to when peak breeding occurs here in Wisconsin. And while peak breeding wouldn’t be a terrible time to be in the deer woods, the two weeks leading up to that are probably better, because this should be when most bucks are on the move, searching for potential mates.
For me, I am hoping that means the week of Nov. 5-11 will be a good time to be strapped into my treestand. That’s where you can probably find me during most daylight hours that week.
Even if the rut does occur at roughly the same time each year, there are other factors that will affect deer movement, with the most likely being weather. Simple observations from most hunters will tell you that a cold front can trigger deer movement, while a warm front can shutdown all daylight activity. Other factors that are believed to affect deer movement include barometric pressure – high pressure is good – along with a change in wind direction and pressure from other hunters.
Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors believes the moon phase doesn’t factor into when the rut happens, but it does affect deer movement. In other words, Drury believes hunting during a full moon when peak rut activity is occurring is your best bet. This year’s November full moon occurs on Saturday, Nov. 4.
One other popular theory used to predict peak rut activity comes from Wayne Laroche and Charles Alsheimer. Their theory, which is based years of research, is that the moon being the biggest factor to triggering the whitetail rut.
Laroche and Alsheimer believe the second full moon after the autumn equinox – the rutting moon – is what triggers peak rutting activity each year. This year’s rutting moon falls on Nov. 4.
For comparison’s sake, last year’s rutting moon came much later, falling on Nov. 14. That would suggest the rut will ramp up earlier this fall, which should make bowhunters who are taking the first week of November off from work pretty happy.