A blog dedicated to the Missouri Whitetail Hunter

General Deer Behavior

2013 Rut Predictions: My Personal Opinion and What You Can Do to Succeed This Fall

September is upon us here in The Show-Me State. There’s just a bit of crisp in the air in the mornings and days are getting shorter. Not to mention football is back! But with the changing of seasons comes a Missouri deer hunters prime time. The rut will be upon us in a few short weeks. Bucks in my neck of the woods are starting to split up bachelor groups and isolate themselves. Proof that the wild storm that is the whitetail rut is brewing.

Last year I wrote on rut predictions that were heavily dependent on the moon phases. These predictions are brought to us by Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine’s Charles Alsheimer. He’s released his rut prediction again for this fall and it’s a much different rut prediction from last fall’s. Alsheimer’s prediction this year is predicting a much later rut. The “rutting moon” as it’s called is said to hit on November 17th this year. With peak rutting activity predicted to be seen from November 14th to the 25th. He has also predicted a “trickle rut”, much like that of 2010. The definition of a trickle rut is a rut that has no true high point. There are highs and lows, but no ultimate date that the most rutting activity will occur. I could go into so much more detail on Charles predictions for this year, but for my sanity I won’t.

Personally, I’ve had it with all these predictions by hunting magazines. They are never consistent with the actual rut that fall (at least in my area of the country). Instead I’m going to tell you my own personal rut prediction for this fall, you ready for it? IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN! Bucks are going to establish territories, chase does, and breed those does. Simple as that. The best way to hunt my prediction is even simpler, BE IN THE WOODS as much as possible and hunt everyday you can for the month of November. Ask any successful trophy hunter and that’s the first thing they’ll tell you. They hunt every day possible. Now I realize folks work and have lives; me personally I’m a full-time college student an hour and a half away from the property I hunt. So for the majority of people, you can’t hunt every single day of November. But hopefully you understand what I’m getting at. Hunt as much as possible. The deer are gonna be out there, and they’re gonna be moving. Only way to know if you’ll get that trophy is if you’re 20 feet in a tree.

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Good news is the deer out there most likely will be the same deer you saw all summer scouting too. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Ecology tells of how bucks didn’t enlarge their home ranges during the rut, they only increased their movements in those home ranges during the rut. The study also showed the bucks remained most active at dawn and twilight. It showed that moon phase had no influence on deer behavior or movement. The only factor that had any influence was change in temperature and climate. If your scouting showed great potential in the summer. Odds are those bucks are still in the area. Only thing you need to do is be in the woods with them.

With an increase in movement during the rut in a mature bucks home range. The best way to have an encounter with that buck is the set up in travel corridors or pinch points. High traffic areas are, in my opinion, the best way to bring home a trophy. Mapping out a pinch point between a food resource and bedding area is the best travel corridor in the book. You need to hunt what a whitetail is after, before you can hunt whitetails. Food is still the number one thing on a whitetail’s mind, everyday of the year. Just make sure you have a safe entry and exit point to a stand in a corridor, to keep from kicking up deer that might be meeting you as you come in. I’ve had some of the best hunts in travel corridors during the rut. I highly recommend sitting in the stand all day in these situations. You won’t be disappointed.

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Rut predictions to me are a dime a dozen. They all tell the same story. The rut WILL happen. Yes, they are great debating points and give some insight. But to keep you from investing all your chips on a one or two day window, I recommend you avoid them. That way you save yourself from major disappointment in the end.

Like always the best way to success is preparation. Through hard work, scouting, and being prepared to execute. Those are the keys to success in November. If you have those locked down, you should be just fine in the deer hunters prime time.

Good Hunting Folks!


2012 Rut Prediction

So first off, I know I haven’t made a post in a while. But If anyone has been a full-time college student, you can understand that somethings take priority. But I’m back (for now).

The leaves are really turning brown in my neck of the woods, yesterday we had our first real taste of cold weather. I couldn’t be happier about it either, because that means one thing to us deer hunters. The rut is just around the corner. But exactly “when” around the corner?

One of the biggest arguments in deer hunting circles is what triggers the onset of estrous in does and the specific date of the peak of the rut. Some say the moon, some claim the weather, and some say it’s the amount of sunlight per day in the fall. It’s an on going debate year to year among die hard hunters.
So in this post I’m going to share with you the prediction I’m basing some of my hunting on. Also I’ll give a few good ideas of what kind of set up I think would work in each phase of the rut. Hopefully I can help you make a prediction of when your going to be in the stand this fall.

One of the biggest claims is the onset of the 2nd full moon after the Autumn Equinox. According to the this theory, once this moon (which they call the “Rutting Moon”) hits, most doe’s estrus cycles kick into gear and the peak of the rut follows shortly. There’s been a lot of research in this area, and a lot of data to back it up. One of the biggest supporters of this predictions is Charles Alsheimer. Who has done 15 years of research with this “Rutting Moon Prediction”. Charles main hypothesis to his research is this:

At some point in autumn, the amount of sunlight decreases enough to reset the whitetail’s reproductive clock, thus placing the breeding season in November, December and January in the Northern Hemisphere. Once a doe’s reproductive cycle is reset by a specific amount of daylight, her estrous cycle is ready to be cued by moonlight, which provides a bright light stimulus to the pineal gland several nights in a row each lunar month. Then, the rapid decrease in lunar brightness during the moon’s third quarter triggers hormonal production by the pineal gland. Physiological changes prompted by the pineal gland culminate in ovulation and estrus.

Now the “Rutting Moon” this fall hits on October 29th, and with Alsheimer’s claims this is the kick start to this years rut. But 4 to 5 days before the 29th, Alsheimer says there will be an increase in buck activity during the “Seeking Phase”. Which to me is a great time to be in the woods. Bucks are cruising outside their normal home ranges to find as many does as possible. This time of the year is a great time to spend all day in the stand. There’s no telling what might pass by your set up, especially if you’re in a funnel or pinch point, where deer feel they have to travel. Alsheimer then goes on to claim that starting around November 2nd, the “Chasing Phase” of the rut should come into full swing. This is personally my favorite time of the rut. It’s that boiling point in the buck’s testosterone. Expect to see a lot of buck activity, from chasing does to fighting. Be in the stand all day just because you won’t wanna miss this intensity. This phase of the rut is a great time to call and rattle. To try and aggravate that testosterone of a mature buck. The best stand to sit in this phase I think is a travel route between bedding and feeding. Rattling near a bedding site around mid day could pull a buck off of his bed and into your area. As well as the travel route you could see multiple does, with the potential to have a buck hot on her heels.

This activity should continue until between November 8th and November 16th. This is the only problem I have with this system of predicting the rut. That’s a very large window to guess, when the peak of estrous and breeding occurs. But this is what is referred to as the “Lockdown Phase”. Mature bucks get tied up with a single doe, waiting for here to breed. It’s a slow and hard time to hunt, because buck activity seems to dip off. Those locked up bucks are with their does in thick cover. Any bucks seen alone are on the hunt for another doe. In this window between the 8th and the 16th, is usually the time when Missouri makes it the opening day for rifle season. Personally for me that’s why rifle season lacks the intense activity that bow season has in late October and early November. Although I’ve had the majority of my success in rifle season, on those bucks looking for another hot doe. I can attribute my success during this portion of the rut to making sure I was in the stand every morning and evening. After this lockdown phase the rut really winds down and for those who hunt the 2nd rut get ready. As for me in late season situations, I’m hunting over a food source.

So what does all this really mean to the average deer hunter. To me it means the rut is going to hit a little earlier than it has in the last few years. Which I like the sound of. Also I think we should experience a more pronounced period of rutting activity. Which around those dates of October 29th and November 2nd should make this season exciting. Now I’m not putting ALL my chips on this prediction. But they give me a rough idea of when I should be in the stand, and how I should hunt on those days based on what phase of the rut we might be in.

So what do you think? Does the Alsheimer Rut Prediction intrigue you? Does it make you change your hunting calender?


The Truth About Scrapes & The Missing Ingredient

This is kind of a spin off of my post the other day about scents. But today I’m going to go into the detail about the scrape and how the whitetail deer actually uses it as a communication tool.

The scrape is a puzzling thing in the world of whitetails. A bare spot of ground that is almost like the community bathroom. But in a deers eyes it’s the complete opposite of a bathroom. The scrape in the deer world is the night club/bar of their social life. It’s where bucks hangout, set up pecking orders, and hand out their business cards. It is the top place for whitetail communication. You see deer actually use scrapes year round, it’s just that in the fall and during the rut is when they heavily use them. But I’ve seen pictures of deer scent checking old scrapes in March before, it’s just not as frequently used or seen.

Deer interpret their world and their social life through their nose. You see does have a summer schedule that’s different from a bucks. The main reason bucks join together in the summer and for bachelor groups is to familiarize themselves with the competition. They are studying their opponents from how they look to how they smell. They have an instinctive need to find out who is dominant and who is subordinate.

You see there is an aspect of the scrape that is heavily overlooked by hunters, one of the most important aspects. I’ve seen hunters hunt over natural scrapes and I’ve seen hunters hunt over man made. Both with some success, but it’s the ones that pay attention to the minor details of the man made scrapes that have almost 100% chance of success while in the field. You see a man made scrape will bring a buck in… but just one time. Let’s say you clear the ground and make the scrape flawlessly and you put just the right doe urine on the ground, along with a dominant buck urine. Now you sit over that scrape and hunt it. Now a buck might or might not come in, either way a buck is probably going to come in to the scrape just once. To investigate the scent of urine that he’s smelling. But the main reason a mature buck will only come to that scrape once is that key ingredient I was talking about earlier.

If you’ve ever watched a buck work a scrape. He paws the ground, might pee a little, and he rubs his antlers and forehead on an over hanging limb. There isn’t a whitetail scrape on this planet that doesn’t have some kind of over hanging licking branch. That branch is a where a buck deposits his preorbital gland scent. this comes from a gland that’s directly in front of the deers eye. An aspect of a mock scrape that will make or break it is that preorbital gland. When used on a licking branch, it can be extremely deadly for a mature whitetail. You see this is going to make a mature buck believe your scrape is real, and he’s gonna want to know who made it. He’s going to hang around in that area, checking that scrape and making others. He wants to meet this new comer, to decide where he fits in the pecking order. The use of preorbital gland lure on a mock scrape can turn that scrape into a community scrape, and a productive tool for a hunter in mere days.

I hope this helps you and you can find it useful next time you plan to create a mock scrape to hunt over.