Tuesday, November 01, 2011

In Virginia, November is for deer hunters

Mark Taylor Mark Taylor is outdoors editor at The Roanoke Times.



Mark Taylor

Outdoors coverage

The Wild Life blog

Today is a good day for Virginia's deer hunters.

Not formally.

It's not a season opener or a day with special limits or opportunities.

It's simply the first day of November, the deer hunter's favorite month.

This is our favorite month, in part, because it brings us the busiest, most popular seasons.

The first, early black powder season, opens Saturday. One could argue that the muzzleloader opener has replaced the general firearms first day -- which hits this year Nov.19 -- as Virginia's most anticipated hunting season opener.

Many whitetail fanatics will spend the better part of the month in the woods. And when they're not out there they will be talking deer hunting, and the topic of choice will more often than not be the rut.

The rut is lingo for breeding season.

Over the next few weeks female deer will be cycling into estrous, and bucks will be doing their best to hook up with every doe they can find.

The reason for the concentrated breeding season is pretty simple. By breeding around the same time, deer give birth around the same time, overwhelming the local predator base.

Bobcats, coyotes and black bears will get plenty of fawns. But they can't get them all.

The rut is such a popular discussion topic precisely because it gets deer on their feet during daylight hours, and that even can apply to normally secretive, nocturnal mature bucks.

Hunters discuss and speculate about when the rut will peak because, theoretically, that peak will offer the best daytime deer movement.

The rut is also a convenient excuse.

If a hunter has a couple of slow days, you might hear him complain that "the rut is over."

Or maybe he sees been seeing a little chasing here and there for a couple of weeks, but no crazy days. That might be termed a "trickle rut."

Biologically speaking, however, the peak of the breeding in Virginia rarely changes much.

Studies have found that the peak tends to stretch four to six days in mid-November.

But the peak of breeding doesn't necessarily equate to a peak in deer hunting success. In fact, the most widespread daytime deer movement typically comes in the couple of weeks leading up to the peak in breeding. That's because bucks are getting into the mood, but most does aren't ready to be bred. So the bucks are out there covering a lot of ground looking for any does that might be receptive.

There is plenty of discussion, of course, about other factors that can affect deer movement.

Some hunters firmly believe moon phase is important.

You'll hear that a full moon will limit early morning and late evening deer movement, for example, but lead to increase in midday movement. Some whitetail experts swear that the best days are those when the moon is in the sky in the afternoon.

Weather is another potential factor.

There are strong feelings that warmer-than-usually weather will hinder daytime deer movement. The arrival of a major cold front is often thought to trigger deer movement.

But this being nature, there are few sure things.

Well, maybe one sure thing. The best way to guarantee being out there for the peak of deer movement is to hunt every day of the month.

Few of us have that luxury, of course.

Hunters who have limited time can be well-served by looking at factors such as weather and moon phase before picking their hunting days.

But those who are stuck hunting specific days shouldn't fret, because things can blow up any day in November, which is why we love it so much.

Month also for runners

November is not only a big month for deer hunters, it's a big one for runners in Western Virginia.

Several key events are on the calendar this month, including a couple of old standards and at least one new event.

Saturday features a new run in the Big Lick Vet Tails and Trails 5K, at the cross country course at North Cross. While dogs are allowed in some of the region's runs, this is one where they're actually encouraged (but not required).

The race is a fundraiser for the Roanoke-based Virginia Canine Recovery Team, which uses dogs in search and rescue applications.

The entry fee is $35 for runners and $5 for dogs.

More information is at www.biglickvet.com.

Also Saturday is the Shawsville Cross County 5K, which is in its 8th year. The entry fee is $20.

Information on the race, which is at Camp Alta Mons, is available by contacting Marvin Ballard at 268-1812 or mballard@mcps.org.

Nov. 12 brings the Lexington to Buena Vista 10K, which is in its 52nd year. For more information on the race, which starts at 8:30 a.m., visit www.rarorec.org, click "Dominos 10K Information."

The annual Star City Half Marathon is Nov. 19, with a 9a.m. start.

Organizers changed the course from a Roanoke River Greenway-heavy route to one that offers more variety. Starting on Reserve Avenue, the course winds though downtown, back across the Roanoke River and through South Roanoke, before finishing with a few miles on the Greenway.

The entry fee is $49 and more information is available at www.starcitystriders.com.

Five days later, on Thanksgiving morning, comes the monster, the Stellar One Drumstick Dash 5K.

Last year's event - and for most the of the participants it is an event and not a race - drew about 11,500 participants. And while participation has been down this year in many races, don't expect that pattern to hold for the Dash which continues to gain popularity as a pre-feast tradition for families.

Runners start at 9a.m.; walkers at 9:10 a.m.

Registration is $22 for runners and $12 for walkers through Nov. 14. Babies and dogs - yes, babies and dogs - are $5.

More details on the Dash, a fundraiser for the Rescue Mission, are available at www.drumstickdash.net.

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