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Rut season keeps hunters out of a rut

November 13, 2005|By Bill Anderson

Every fall, news releases come out like clockwork.

Various agencies warn motorists that deer will be crossing roads during this mating period, trying to prevent 60 mph collisions with the animals.

Of course, most drivers would choose to avoid hitting a deer. But most are unavoidable. I've had deer run into the side of my car.

Avoid that.

If you are a serious deer hunter, this time of year is consider primetime on the hunting calendar. The annual mating season, or rut, is a period that gives hunters the best chance of the season to see the biggest bucks in a population.

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The rest of the year, the same bucks are mostly nocturnal and extremely difficult to pattern. The rut brings them out and the mistakes they make result in some of them getting a ride in the back of a pickup.

Unfortunately - or fortunately depending on your point of view - hunters from this region who wish to take advantage of this period of deer activity must hunt with archery gear.

Only Virginia has a muzzleloader season in early November during the peak of the rut. Virginia gun hunters love this season while Virginia bowhunters have complained bitterly for more than a decade.

My two best bucks were taken during this muzzleloader season, so I'm a fan.

In more than 25 years of this outdoors column, I've met some extremely successful hunters who plan their entire year around the rut period. One friend worked for the federal government and would save vacation time to take the entire month of November off to hunt big bucks with archery gear. He hunted in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, and after many years and many successes, he was still the poster child for hardcore deer hunter.

Every legal day in November, Monday through Saturday, he will be in his tree stand. Rain or shine, in warm or cold weather, he is usually in the stand from daylight to dusk. He keeps detailed records and can tell you how many bucks he sees, the best moon phase and the best weather conditions for deer movement.

Most of us are not nearly this dedicated, but there is a story here for all of us.

During the peak of the rut, the best time to be in the treestand is all of the time. Forget the early morning and late evening as the best movement times, because the biggest buck of your career may go by at noon. The bucks are on the prowl and the typical rules of deer movement do not apply.

The very best thing is that the deer movement is natural because bowhunting is generally low impact and relatively low hunting pressure.

In a few weeks, when the general firearms seasons open, things will change completely. The orange-clad hunters will swarm to the woods and the deer movement will change to escape and evasion in response to overwhelming human activity.

This period just before the firearms season is the best deer hunting of the fall.

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

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