The Rut in Deer Hunting - What Triggers it?
You read that right. A group that has spent the majority of the past couple years writing about flounder gigging and bowfishing are now writing about the rut in deer hunting. Believe it or not, we’re all big hunters when the season presents itself. Bowfishing and flounder gigging are seemingly easier to do year-round, and lawfully allowed of course.
The open of deer season is different for every county across the states, as are the rut seasons. Here locally, we are seeing signs of the rut starting as early as November 1. In years past, the rut has ranged from late October to early December. When we hunt in West Texas, we typically see a thanksgiving timed rut. Across the U.S., there will be a rut occurring starting in the month of August until February. Here’s the real question - What Triggers the Rut?
Biologists have come to the conclusion that photoperiod is the ultimate trigger which has an impact on development of plants and animals. Photoperiod is the interval during a 24-hour period that a plant or animal receives light. A diminishing ratio of daylight to darkness triggers behavioral and physiological changes that lead to breeding. First the antlers mineralize and the bucks shed their velvet. Next, bucks begin sparring rubbing trees, and making scrapes. This transitions to fighting and establishing dominance and breeding rights, and eventually breeding begins.
The Rut in the Northern States vs the Southern States is significantly different because there is a much more distinct change in photoperiod in the north vs the south. The north will experience almost 16 hours per day of sunlight at its peak during the months of May and June and less than 9 hours of daylight during the months of November, December, and January. The rut in the south is much more sporadic, because the daylight hours do not have as significant of a change as the north. During the months of May and June, the southern states are experiencing almost 14 hours of daylight while seeing 10.5-11 hours of daylight during the winter months. The change in hours for the North is approximately 7 hours of daylight while the south is only approximately 3 hours of daylight.
Depending on how the daylight hours change in your local area, you may be able to predict when your local rut will occur. If you are seeing scrapes and wandering bucks, it could be that the rut has already started.