Rut Movement and the Rumor Mill

Every year that I hunt, I hear reports from other hunters that usually sound like this: “You better get in the stand, they are rutting like crazy right now.” I invariably run out to my truck, screech the tires leaving my parking space, gather all my gear, leap into my stand, and proceed to watch a couple does and fawns browse past with no big buck following them. I am another victim of the rumor mill and the truth is that the activity and movement tied to the rut is more like a sunrise than a light switch. It slowly ramps up, hits a peak, then wains.It slowly ramps up, hits a peak, then wains.

If you time it right, the peak of the chase phase can be an absolute joyride which is the portion of the rut we all think about when we hear “rutting like crazy.”  The actual breeding portion of the rut or “lock down” is less exciting because bucks stay occupied for days at a time which equates to less movement.

The white-tail rut does not occur overnight.  It can carry on several weeks to several months depending on a number of variables.  These include but are not limited to:  the age structure of the herd, ancestry of the population (some populations are transplants from other regions), the health of the herd, the weather, and photoperiod.  Some would argue the timing of the rut depends on the moon phase but there isn’t a lot of scientific data to validate that opinion (yet).

I have hunted areas where I could see a long distance in several directions and within a half mile it seemed like there were two phases of the rut happening.  To my north I could see and hear bucks chasing does, fighting, and grunting.  To my south, I watched 3 mature does with a total of 5 fawns browse in a food plot without being disturbed by a single buck.  The point is, the most predictable aspect of mature buck movement during the rut is that it’s unpredictable.

The important thing to remember is that a mature buck can move in daylight during any phase of the rut, and you need to spend as much time in the stand as your schedule allows in order to capitalize on that movement.  If you have hunted an area long enough, you can usually figure out the best week to be in the stand based on when you have witnessed other mature bucks on their feet.  You can also check out sites such as Field and Stream or Cabela’s to view their reports on rutting activity in your area.


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