The whitetail rut is defined and described in number of ways, but it certainly is not the one-dimensional annual occurrence it is so often portrayed as.

The whitetail rut is defined and described in number of ways, but it certainly is not the one-dimensional annual occurrence it is so often portrayed as. 


Tough for us to let go of old beliefs. Some of our woodland understandings are well worn and comfortable, and fit like a good gun, especially when they’ve been soaked in heritage and tradition.


Nonetheless, experience and science continues to move on and now we can say the annual whitetail rut, actually has three peaks of breeding activity, each with a prelude and all the expected fanfare of chasing and grunting, herding into a breeding group that those of us who enjoy hunting, dream about.


Each year has three rut peaks.


And these breeding peaks vary from year to year, both in timing and intensity. Some years, the first peak is so intense, that the latter two go almost unnoticed. Other years, the middle peak awakens memories of “a traditional rut.” And then there are years with a great second peak in November, and a strong third peak in December when researchers say that upwards of 10 percent of the year’s doe fawns go into estrus, along with those does not pregnant in the earlier rut peaks. 


This past season was unique in that it had a good first peak in late October, and then a strong spike in the breeding action at the end of the third week of November, then a final small flurry in mid-December.


Those of us who hunt the bow, then the gun and/or muzzleloader spend the time in the woods to experience this multi-peaked phenomena as longer deer seasons now span the entire rut, from the beginning to near the end.


Many bow hunters reported rut activity around Halloween and those first days of November. First-hand experiences were backed up by trail cameras action at scrapes, a spike in the road kills, noticeable encounters with “abandoned fawns.” Does approaching estrus, or their actual breeding time, will temporarily leave their fawns to complete their biological mandate…without their fawns for a few days as they take off and spend time in the realm of the breeding bucks. 


As November’s first week reached it’s end, rutting action dropped off dramatically. And many bow hunters were disappointed in their trees because traditionally, the second week of November, especially around Veteran’s Day, is typically a great time to be in the woods. Overall, the second and the first part of the third week of November was described as quiet. For the most part, things were very slow as the bucks and does were laying low, resting up, and in “lock down mode” with the first round of the rut sputtering to its normal conclusion.


Then, the does that didn’t cycle or get bred during the first go-round came into estrus right on time, a little over three weeks later.


The warning bell rang loudly to those that could hear it. That quiet time between the two major rutting peaks had ended. Preliminary rutting action during the tail-end of the third week of November was observed peaking once again, as it had 26 days prior in late October, when the leaves were still on the trees.


Many bow hunters who had not given up the ghost after a few slow weeks in November, began exclaiming that “the rut is on!”


The archers’ excitement was short-lived as the season came to a too-quick end for most, as so often seems to be the case. “If I only had a couple more days!”


But the legions of those that carried a gun into the deer woods had the great fortune of hitting the rut peak near perfectly, and many explained their successful hunts with stories of rutting bucks, chasing does, great success with buck lures, and grunting big bucks, “right behind the doe.”


That’s the stuff that a deer hunter’s three-dimensional dream is made out of.


Contact Oak Duke at publisher@wellsvilledaily.com.