LAKE OCONEE — The next 2-3 weeks are the ideal time in our locality to be in the woods if you want a good opportunity to harvest a quality buck. The cool but not cold weather has likely slowed the deer mating process but it should be full steam ahead from now through Thanksgiving and into the last week of November.
Weather does play a small part in the rutting season but it will only delay it for a short period of time. In fact, the rut may be spaced out over several weeks. Collisions between buck deer and automobiles are a sure sign that the rutting season has started. Until recently most of those deer/auto collisions have occurred with does.
The bucks are pretty much nocturnal creatures until the rutting season begins and then they might be seen at any time of the day. The bucks forget about being cautious and forget about eating and sleeping. All they have on their minds is mating and that causes the bucks to temporarily lose their heads.
Prior to the rutting season, the bucks were best hunted at daybreak or at dusk and even then they were reluctant to show themselves. All that caution is left behind due to the urge to mate. That is the reason why drivers are more likely to see or literally come in contact with a buck during the rutting season than at any other time of the year.
Webster’s dictionary defines the rut as the periodic sexual excitement, or heat, of certain mammals (including deer), applying especially to males during a period of time that occurs usually once a year. The deer rut may last over a period of two months but the peak of the rut is a period of time when a large number of does come into estrous or become ready to breed and that may only last one-three weeks.
There are all sorts of theories about the impact of weather and moon phases on the rut but once the rut begins that buck could care less if the moon is full, if rain is falling, if the sun is shining or if it is day or night. The buck has one thing and only one thing on his mind and that is breeding a receptive doe.
Once breeding begins, scrapes and tree rub routes made by bucks that you read about are not reliable indicators because the bucks will be spending more time just following does or searching for does. Daytime buck activity will be very high as long as does remain in estrus or heat.
During the rut, some hunters rely on grunt calls while others use various commercial products that imitate the smell of a doe in heat. Other hunters who have studied the deer, have hunted for years and know the deer’s habits will simply conceal themselves in an area frequented by does and just wait for the buck to show up.
Just about every deer hunter can relate a story or two about the weird actions of a buck that he/she has observed during the rutting period. I have several stories myself and most include harvesting a buck simply because the buck had lost his sense of caution and that made a harvest reasonably easy. Caution goes out the window and bucks can and will do some crazy things during the rutting period.
One year while hunting in a wooded draw, a buck ran by my stand so fast that I could not safely get off a good shot. About ever five minutes that buck would run down the draw one way and then come back from the opposite direction. Each time the buck ran past my stand his nose was to the ground. The buck obviously had the scent of a doe in estrous. After several round trips, the buck stopped from sheer exhaustion almost directly in front of my stand and gave me a perfect shot.
On another trip, I had taken a lunch break (sometimes not wise to do during the rut) and was sitting on the tailgate of my truck when a buck ran out of the woods and ran past me within fifteen yards of where I was sitting. The only thing I could do was throw my bologna sandwich at him.
A rank amateur can harvest a buck during the rut but the true test of a hunter’s ability comes before and after the rut. If you want an easier opportunity to harvest a buck during this hunting season, you need to hunt during the rutting period and that means hunting now and until the end of November. Good hunting and see you next week.