White-tailed Deer Rut: Early Rut Vs. Late Rut?

Timing the white-tailed deer rut can be a bit confusing until you understand exactly how deer breeding takes place. There is the early rut, the late rut and then when is the peak of the rut? Hunters often talk about the rut being early or late. In Texas, at least, the breeding season for white-tailed deer is fairly predictable from year to year. Within a specific region, habitat conditions not only affect fawn survival, but can affect the timing of breeding. A doe in poor condition or a young doe may not breed until late in the season. A doe may be attractive to bucks for about five days, but may be willing to breed for a period of only 24 hours. If the doe is not bred during her first cycle, she will generally come into heat again about 28 days later.

In areas where there are few whiteail bucks, a doe may not encounter a buck when she is first receptive and may not be bred until one of her later cycles. Someone who sees the late breeding activity may be convinced that there was a late rut. On the other hand, those who see does attended by bucks in the early part of the season believe there was an early rut. This helps explain the wide variety of opinions on the timing of the rut during a particular year.

Hunters themselves can influence the rut, or at least their perception of it. "Hunter chronology" has a lot to do with the perceived timing of the rut. Traditionally, hunters are more likely to be afield during cool weather. They will usually be out in force with the onset of the first weekend norther during the deer season. When there are many observers spending time in the field it is more likely that breeding activity will be noticed.

Whitetail Rut and Fawning

Bucks, like whitetail deer hunters, have a tendency to move around during cool weather. Bucks with hardened antlers are ready to breed and are looking for a willing doe. More movement means more opportunity to encounter a receptive doe. This increased movement helps give rise to the idea that cold weather causes the rut. However, this theory is disproved by white-tailed deer breeding in tropical climates.

Biologist once believed that late fawning could be a problem in areas where survival was low and antlers were poorly developed. Newly weaned fawns on the range in late fall would have a harder time surviving. A lack of adequate nutrition at this time could affect future body and antler production. The Texas-based study showed that very few fawns are born late. Even there, fawns were born before August and are weaned by October.


White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Whitetail are found from southern Canada to South America. They are an important part of the landscape in all areas where they are found. During summer months deer often use fields and meadows, searching for forbs high in protein, but whitetail deer are primarily browsers. Read more...

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