Posted on

When is the Rut?

If you are a hunter, asking this question, chances are you are more interested in when the most Daytime activity is during the mating season of the Whitetail Deer.  Much of the Rut activity is nocturnal, and for hunters limited to daytime hunting, we miss out.

When is the Peak Rut in your area?

The peak of the rut is based on the diminishing light that occurs in the Fall.  Every year as the hours of daylight of those golden summer days shorten, and become fall days, the mating season of the Whitetail deer gets started like clockwork.  This is based on the time the sun is in the sky, which is the same every year.  It is NOT based on the Moon at all.  Let me repeat that – Decades of research tells us that the timing of the Rut has nothing to do with the phase of the moon.

Here is the output from a survey of state biologists across the country (click to enlarge):


More Importantly – What is Peak Rut considered by Biologists?

The way that Biologists figure out when the peak of a previous year’s rut was is by measuring the batch of fawns from that year in order to determine what avearage date they were concieved on.  This does not mean that that date was the most ideal date to be hunting – in fact probably just the opposite.  When two deer have paired up for mating, chances are they are in a protected, secluded area, and not out and about.  Instead, its the days leading up to the peak rut day that are the days that Hunters most look forward to.

It’s those days before the peak of the biological rut that Bucks wander around the woods in the daytime looking for does, seemingly oblivious to sounds and smells that we as hunters make.  One year, a buddy of mine and I were hunting on different sides of a small mountain, and both saw the same deer.  He surprised me while I was fiddling with my GPS, and my less than subtle reaction had him running the other way.  Less than 2 hours later I heard the shot that took him down as he was crashing through brush on the other side of the mountain, straight into my friends shooting line.  He seemed totally oblivious to where we were on both occasions.

How does the Moon Factor In?

Deer are corpuscular which means that they move more at dusk and at dawn then they do at other times during the day.  Research has been done to correlate these movements to the Phase of the moon, and the following has been determined.

According to the QDMA:

New Moon – Large peak in movement just after daylight – then lower than average amount for rest of day and night.

First Quarter Moon – On average move less during the day.  Not ideal for day hunting.

Full Moon – Greater than average movement during the day, and Greater than average moment earlier in the afternoon into twighlight.  Get to your stand earlier on these days

Last Quarter Moon – Greater than average movement near twighlight in the evening

How should I plan my Hunting?

The combination of the Moon Phase, and the Rut date in your area should help you determine which days would be best for hunting.  Ideally you would have a full moon a few days before the rut date, and with that you would have the most natural chasing behaviour of bucks looking for loving due to the Rut, and the most daytime activity due to the Moon Phase.

For example, up in Maine where I hunt, the peak rut is on November 20th, and the Full moon is on November 25th.  That puts the full moon after the peak rut, when typically the younger Bucks and Does are mating.  For the older Bucks and Does, the days just before the 20th should be the best, but the moon phase is not ideal.  For me this year, it means that there will be less daytime movement for the deer, and I will need to be there before Dawn, ready to catch them at their peak activity time.