The Truth About the Rut

Posted by: Jake Miller
Nov 2016

We’ve talked about it before. There are almost as many myths about deer hunting as there are days in the season. One of the most commonly misconceived myths is about the length of the Midwest whitetail rut.

November hits and a lot of hunters have been lead to believe that date on the calendar is what makes the deer frisky. In reality, there are a lot of other factors to consider. The rut is the whitetails breeding period, but it doesn’t happen at the flip of the calendar. Weather, moon phase, temperature, even hunting pressure have been said to effect when and how long the rut lasts. The truth, however, is that your guess is as good as any.

The estrous period for any single doe will only last for about a week. In that time period, you can bet there will be several bucks in the area where she is living, and more than a few of them are likely to breed her.

Each doe has a different personality, different set of genes, and therefore, a different day they come into heat. Depending on the farm you hunt, the genetics of the area might mean some doe come in to heat at the end of October. Others might not come in until closer to, or even in the month of December. This is why November is often known as the critical rut month. It gives you roughly 30 days to be in the woods with a high likelihood that at least one doe in the area will be in estrous.

I’ve hunted a property and have seen breeding take place as early as October 25th, and have witnessed some heavy rut activity as late as January 10th. These are probably isolated cases of an early or a late estrous doe, but it proves the point that not every doe comes in to heat at the same time, and so the rut doesn’t always kick off on November 1st. Bottom line, when the temperature begins to drop, the fall leaves fall to the forest floor, and you hear word that deer are getting frisky, you better grab your crossbow and head to a treestand

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