Deer hunting is in the rut

November 07, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

Most hunters would still agree that the highlight of the deer hunting season is the general firearms season.

I say still agree because for many hunters, recent opportunities such as the early muzzleloader seasons now offered in many states and the bow season are the true highlights of the season.

We are now in what many hunters consider to be the key period of the fall deer hunting season. Most hunters refer to it as the rut period. This is the period when a majority of the deer breeding takes place, and also the period when many older bucks are taken.

Deer mating activity in our area generally lasts from late October into January, but the peak of the activity occurs during the month of November, with the first three weeks of November the peak time. The arrival of the full moon in November is known to have a great effect on rut activity.


The importance of the rut on deer activity is hard to overstate. The older bucks that are almost exclusively nocturnal are suddenly seen out and about in the middle of the day, making them susceptible to hunting. Many hunters save their vacation days for this prime November period and try to stay in their stands from daylight until dark.

This is also a period when deer are on the move constantly and many are killed on highways. It pays to be particularly on guard when traveling in areas with high deer populations, which, it seems, are just about everywhere these days.

Hunting trophy whitetails during the rut has evolved into something of a specialty, and the period has been heavily documented in books, magazine articles and videos. Specialized techniques also have evolved. Hunters now know that deer will often respond to calling and antler rattling. Deer are more vocal than many realize, particularly during the rut. That's why many hunters consider a deer grunt tube an essential part of their hunting gear, especially when hunting in November.

Another calling approach is to simulate two bucks fighting by rattling antlers together. In areas of high buck concentrations, rattling can be effective, particularly during the rut period. If you are unfamiliar with using a grunt call or antler rattling there are many excellent videos or DVDs that you can rent or buy to learn the basics.

As it turns out, a lot of the prime rut activity is over by the time the regular firearms season opens. It's also true that the intense hunter activity forces the deer to change from normal activity patterns and concentrate on dodging hunters.

That's why many consider the period we are in now, just before the regular firearms season, to be the best deer hunting period of the fall.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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