Confused about which days the whitetail rut will be hottest? No need. This rut forecast will suit any schedule.
other studies, was that the peak of rut activity varied and seemed to be influenced by the timing of the full moon each fall.
“What Laroche and I were doing was merely trying to help hunters,” says Alsheimer. “We weren’t interested in changing what biologists said about the timing of the rut.”
More specifically, Alsheimer found that the second full moon after the autumnal equinox is the key trigger for rut activity.
“That nighttime light source really ramps up buck activity,” he says. “It’s not going to be peak breeding when that full moon hits—that’s going to be sometime later. And that can be anytime from five to six days—up to 20 days—later.”
Seeking behavior in bucks seems to pick up just before that full moon, and chasing increases in the days following. These phases often offer the best daylight deer activity and therefore the best hunting opportunities.
It’s important to know, though, that this full moon hits at a different time each year, causing different effects on the rut based on where it falls in the photoperiod. When the full moon occurs from late October to early November, you get what Alsheimer refers to as a “synchronized rut.” This timing matches up with peak sperm count for bucks and highest estrogen levels in does.
“That’s ideal,” he says. “All the years we’ve been doing this, that’s been the most intense rut.
“A full moon falling between November 4 and 12 results in the traditional rut,” Alsheimer says. This also coincides most closely with photoperiod predictions. But when the full moon occurs later in the month, such as what we had in 2016, according to Alsheimer, “everything trickles along—it’s going to be hot then cold, hot and then cold.”
In 2017, the second full moon of the autumnal equinox occurs on November 4. If the Alsheimer and Laroche research holds true, we’re in store for a traditional rut this fall. That means that rutting activity should be most intense in the handful of days leading up to, and the week or so following, that date. Those are the days to put in your time on stand.
While debates rage year after year around his moon theory, Alsheimer has quietly used the insights gleaned from his study to amass an impressive collection of trophy bucks. “Probably threequarters of the bucks I’ve killed in my career have come from using our hypothesis,” he says.
Alsheimer and Laroche don’t have a monopoly on moon-based rut theories, though. Jake Ehlinger, a veteran hunter and Whitetail Properties land specialist, focuses specifically on moon major and minor phases.
“There are four times each day when the moon is either on a horizon, directly overhead, or directly underfoot,” says Ehlinger. “When it’s directly overhead or underfoot, it’s considered a moon major. When it’s on a horizon, it’s a moon minor. When those moon positions occur, I’ve experienced a great increase in deer movement.”
Ehlinger uses this moon position data to determine when the best days of deer activity will be during the rut, and on which days he should stay longer on stand. Based on his observations, a moon major or minor can lead to an estimated bump in deer activity of 10 to 15 percent.
Heading into the 2017 season, Ehlinger is particularly excited about November 4 through 6. The afternoons of November 12 to 14 could also lead to earlier-thanexpected action.
In addition to moon effects, there’s another factor that’s slightly harder to pin down, but it’s possibly just as helpful for choosing when and where to focus your rut hunts: annual trends.
“The number-one thing I’m looking at is my notes from what happened in years past,” says Illinois bowhunter Jeff Schelberger. He has been keeping a detailed journal for 15 years, in which he tracks each of his hunts, the location, the deer activity observed, and the conditions—wind, temperature, moon phase, and position. He then uses this data to determine which properties and stand locations are the best bets for each phase of the rut and different sets of conditions. Based on this analysis, Schelberger targets specific farms at specific times during the rut to capture the historically proven best times for deer activity.
“If it’s the last week of October, I know to be on Farm 1,” he says. “If it’s the first week of November, I’ll be on Farm 2. And I do this because I can rely on the deer doing the same thing, within a couple of days, year after year, almost regardless of everything else.”