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Posted by Hunting on Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Tracking the Rut
The countdown to the rut is on, this week we are a little bit closer to calling “rut on”, that said, we are still a good way before we call “rut on”. Our rut watchers are out in force and here’s what they are seeing: plenty of soft sign (rubs, scrapes, licking branch working) but little in the way of the kinds of serious rut markers we look for (chasing, increased buck sightings, older aged bucks moving aggressively, road kills up).
Our watchers are reporting aggressive feeding by bucks and does and little interest in does by bucks. Hard and soft mast is on the ground and food plots are in peak productivity, crops are ready for harvest and the whitetails are doing their best to get their fair share, Case in point, over the weekend we watched multiple locations, we observed numerous doe family groups and numerous bucks all feeding in close proximity to each other, no chasing, no grunting, nothing resembling rut like behavior, never once did any of the bucks show an interest in the does, they hardly gave them a sideways glance, they were totally focused on filling their bellies (as were the does). Reports like this have been coming in from all across whitetail country, with one exception, one of our reporters from central, Michigan got in the middle of a “breeding party” where the bucks were going “crazy”, doing everything you would expect during the peak of the rut. Was the “rut on” in his part of the world, not a chance, he stumbled upon a doe in heat which had all the boys stirred up, the occasional “early estrus” is to be expected, and when it happens, it will draw a crowd.
It’s perfectly normal for a doe or two to come into estrus a month or so before the majority of the herd is ready to breed. Early does always draw a crowd, as the bucks have been ready to breed since they peeled their velvet and went “hard horned”. It is the does estrus that drives the timing of the rut, when the girls are ready the bucks will be there to do their part.
This week we’ve moved the rut meter up a few notches, the increase is primarily a function of the advancement of the season and the increase in testosterone levels in bucks which happens as the days shorten.
Savvy hunters will figure out what the deer are feeding on and hunt it, and/or the travel routes deer use to get to and from the various foods they are using. The driving force in the deer woods is still very much “the need to feed”. The rut still lies very much ahead.