Thursday, December 23, 2004
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Readers weigh in on timing of the rut
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
My recent column on the deer rut drew considerable input, but readers differed as to the precise timing and intensity of this phenomena that can make trophy deer more visible and vulnerable to hunters.
Some through the rut this season was early, while other felt it was right on schedule, whatever that is.
A couple of readers said the rut is jump-started by the moon phase, but they differed whether that phase was the new moon or full moon.
There was the general feeling that the rut was not very intense and was drawn out this season, but there also were reports of bucks “in full rut and dead after a hot doe.”
Perhaps the best advice on when to be afield after deer came from Chris Vaughan, who hunts in Bedford County.
“Hunt whenever you can,” he said. “But if you have to choose, wait until the second week of muzzleloading season and/or the first few days of the rifle season to take the most advantage of the rut. All of the rutting activities I noticed this year happened between Nov. 6 and 18,” he said.
That’s close to the same timeframe that Steve McGuffin of Staunton observed the most rutting activity in Highland County.
“My hunting partner watched a big buck service three does right in front of him on Monday, Nov. 8th. I killed a 6-pointer about 8:15 on the morning of Nov. 15. He chased a doe right out into the field in front of me,” McGuffin said.
“The warm weather before Thanksgiving slowed things down, but when the temperature dropped Thanksgiving night we again saw bucks chasing does, especially on Saturday the 27th,” McGuffin said. “My partner saw three bucks chasing does in the last 4 hours before dark that day.”
The “wild week” of the rut according to the observations of Kevin Lee occurred Nov. 8-15 in Montgomery County. He killed a big 8-pointer Nov. 10 with his muzzleloader, his best deer ever. The buck was hot after a doe.
The timing of the run will vary season to season, Lee believes. “I think it is driven by the cycle of the does in a particular area.”
The moon has something to do with the rut, said Jay Bailey, who hunts in Bedford County.
“My theory is that the new moon date during muzzleloading season is the peak of the rut,” he said. “This may or may not be true, but my wall hangers have all come within three days either side of the new moon.”
For Ellyson Robinson III, the moon to watch is the full one. He killed an 8-point buck on his Chesterfield County farm the Saturday morning of the Virginia Tech/Virginia football game, which was the day following the full moon.
“It was a hard frost and he came down my food plot field at first light, zigzagging with his nose to the ground looking for a hot doe.”
That Nov. 27 day turned out to be a good one all around for Robinson, who is a Hokie fan.
Greg Luzier wonders if a lot of the rutting this season took place at night, the result of warm weather.
“I hunt in Pulaski County and believe that the rut was early and somewhat weak,” he said.
Tony Kelly, a Botetourt County hunter, also thinks the rut was early; in fact, it was all but over by the time the rifle season came in, he said. He wonders if bowhunters and muzzleloaders are most favored by the timing of the rut.
“Something needs to be done to allow the gun hunters the same opportunities to harvest trophy animals,” he said.
James Quarles, who hunts in Botetourt County, agrees with Kelly. He believes that the rut pretty well was over by gun season. Jeffery Bailey of Radford is another hunter who will tell you that the rut was early.
Maybe so, but rifle hunters do OK, according to Chris Vaughan. Describing himself as “an analyst by profession and diehard deer hunter by necessity,” Vaughan looked at last season’s November entries in Mark Taylor’s Whitetail Gallery. Some 60 percent were killed during the rifle season. Of those, 70 percent were taken during the first week of the rifle season.
Should the deer season be adjusted to take advantage of the rut? No, says Miller Williams of Montgomery County.
“I say let’s let the biologist make these decisions, not the hunters,” he said.
“Bottom line is, Mother Nature makes sure it happens at the same time every year so the fawns survive. Weather, moon phase, yadda-yadda all have an effect on our perception of what is happening, but it happens the same time every year.”