How We Call the Rut


As the deer season progresses our collective attention turns to the fall hunting season, all eyes are rut on the rut , especially the whitetail watchers here . So what do we look for when it comes to calling “rut on”. For starters, the rut doesn’t appear out of nowhere, comes on like a winter storm, the wind starts to blow cold, then picks up and gets down right teeth chattering  and before long you are in a full blown hunker down next to the fire nor’easter.

You begin by seeing all kinds of soft signs that the rut is coming on rubbing, scraping, tarsal staining, another indicator of the rut is the breakup of bachelor buck groups summer and early fall buck groups are often comprised of 3-5 (or even more) bucks in a group they break up with the approaching rut. This is a sure indicator of the upcoming hunter’s rut. Hock staining is also a sure sign of the rut’s approach, then most of the bucks are starting to stain, you are generally about 10 days away from some pretty good buck movement. When most of the bucks stained hocks go from dark brown to almost black, you are pretty much there.

One of the best indicators of the upcoming rut is an increase in daylight activity by big bucks. Testosterone overload just forces them out in the open during daylight hours and of course a little whiff of estrus doe helps a bunch. Buck movement also intensifies with the approaching rut and buck to doe ratio sightings generally shift.  As buck activity increases your buck to doe ratios on cameras will generally shift to the buck side. In the peak of the biological rut you can often see 2-3 bucks for every doe (but this is all pretty much site specific

Daylight big buck sightings will be on the increase over the next 10 days


Another indication of increasing buck movement is where the movement occurs and when. They are leaving their favorite feeding haunts and starting to show in out of the way places you can pretty much start thinking rut. Strange bucks showing up is often a sure sign, as is an increase in road kills which is a sure sign of the upcoming rut.

One sign in isolation never reason to call the rut. String together a dozen or so of our rut markers and you are generally on safe ground calling “rut on”.


Be sure to follow our 2017 Real Time Rut Tracker on


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Craig Dougherty
Craig Dougherty has been a staple of the hunting industry for over 35 years. He has held senior executive and board level positions with multiple archery and firearms companies, and industry organizations. He was Chairman of the Board of the Quality Deer Management Association and was instrumental in the formation of the National Deer Alliance. He has and his son Neil have published books on deer management and hunting, and have written hundreds of articles and appeared on hunting TV and at countless sportsman’s events. The pair founded NorthCountry Whitetails a deer hunting and property management company, where they manage over 300,000 acres of deer hunting property for clients across the nation. visit: