The Whitetail Deer Rut

Section #4: Whitetail Hunters Dream Come True, The Rut


The Whitetail Deer Rut, that mythical time of the year that every hunter wants to be in the stand.  The time that literally anything can happen, and you never know what buck may show up. Through experience veteran deer hunters have a day marked on the calendar that in their hunting area is the best day to be in the stand.  I have one, and its Nov. 6th in my area.  I love to be in the stand a couple of days on either side of November 6th.  It may be different in your area, but that is my favorite day.

Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!

The whitetail deer rut buck fighting

Have you ever wondered why veteran deer hunters are able to call out their favorite day in the stand?  Of course, it is based on experience from many hours and days on stand but what is driving that experience? More often than not, a veteran deer hunters favorite day will be in or around the peak of the deer rut.

 From a science perspective, there have been studies done that support the theory that changes in the daylight are what triggers the breeding activity.  My experience, and the experience of many seasoned deer hunters would agree.  


In northern climates, where winter can be harsh, a shorter well-timed whitetail deer rut cycle is necessary to allow the fawns that will be born the following year the best nutrition.  Along with better nutrition the fawns will also have the longest period to grow and mature before the next winter.  After a 200-day cycle, the fawns will be born in the spring season with ample nutrient dense food sources for both the fawn and the mother creating milk.

From a whitetail bucks’ perspective, the photoperiod drives an increasing level of testosterone in late summer.  This increase triggers the bucks to begin shedding the velvet that has covered their antlers through the summer.  This increase in testosterone also drives behavioral changes in preparation of the rut.  

Once the velvet is off, the bucks will begin sparring.  This is all part of establishing the pecking order in an area.  In the beginning, these bouts are relatively harmless and are practice for what is to come.  Immature bucks drive the majority of the early sparring bouts. This is due to a lack of experience and understanding where they rank in the social pecking order.

As the testosterone continues to increase in the buildup to the rut, the intensity of the sparring bouts will increase.  This further establishes the pecking order and who is the dominate buck. Truly violent sparring bouts will occur, but more often these occur during the rut.  These violent encounters happen when two bucks with no history have a fight over an estrous doe.

The Whitetail Deer Rut

As the testosterone continues to increase in the buildup to the rut, the intensity of the sparring bouts will increase.  This further establishes the pecking order and who is the dominate buck. Truly violent sparring bouts will occur, but more often these occur during the rut.  These violent encounters happen when two bucks with no history have a fight over an estrous doe.

A whitetail buck is physically mature enough to breed at 1.5 yrs. old. In almost perfect conditions a whitetail doe can be bred earlier.  However, for the most part does are physically mature enough to breed at 1.5 yrs. old.

Typically, a doe’s estrus cycle lasts for 24 hours but that can be prolonged to 48 hours if the does remain unbred due to mature bucks being preoccupied with other estrous does.  In general adult mature does breed early in the rut while younger does are bred later.  In the northern parts of the United States the rut lasts for approximately three weeks while in the southern parts it can be extended.

Whitetail bucks are ready to breed far earlier than does are ready.  Bucks will begin increasing movement in their home ranges.  They will continuously monitor does progress leading up to the rut.  This is the beginning of bucks courting does.  Bucks will be investigating unresponsive does, as the does begin to run away from this courtship phase we enter what is affectionately known by hunters as the chase phase.  Bucks are reading both visual cues and scent cues during this chase phase as they are sizing up does who may come into estrous first.

When a doe gets close to estrous, she and the buck will separate from the other deer.  This period may last for a couple of days and take as many as three days.  This leads to what some call the lull in the rut.

This time of the year both the buildup to the whitetail deer rut and the rut itself is a whitetail hunters favorite time of the year.  For almost all whitetail hunters, this is the time we dream about being in the stand and it is the time you should focus your attention on.  I always try to keep in mind that where the does are the bucks will be, both before and during the rut.


%d bloggers like this: