REAL-WORLD RUT

Outdoor Life - - NEWS - By mark kenyon

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.”

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