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How To Know It’s Over: Understanding the Peak of the Rut

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In the deer hunting lexicon, everyone knows what “the rut” is: it’s the deer mating season, characterized by frequent deer activity and plentiful buck sightings. However, most hunters more specifically define the year’s best deer hunting period as “the peak of the rut,” and the definition for that phrase is a bit looser. Most of us have probably extolled the virtues of “the peak of the rut” with friends while trying to discuss our seasonal hunting plans. But when exactly is the peak of the rut, and are we hunting it the way we should?

There is a good reason for the “peak of the rut” confusion. Hunting has made “the rut” a common term in the public consciousness, and different hunters in different locations will place this so-called “peak” at different times. For hunters, the peak of the rut is all about what happens when bucks and does start making their presence abundantly known. Bucks who have stayed hidden for the entire autumn suddenly come out of hiding and wander past your treestand or sniff curiously at your trail camera. Deer flood the feeding plots you planted for them earlier in the year; deer making frequent trips from their bedding areas to water sources and food sources; bucks see your decoys and decide to defend their territory.

All of behaviors list above – and more – signify to hunters that the “peak of the rut” is upon them. There is nothing scientific about their observations. They see that deer activity and visibility are up – and in connection, that their own deer hunting prospects are at a season high – and classify that increase in activity as the peak of the rut.

Scientifically, the peak of the rut is something a little bit different. In general, biologists point to the “peak of the rut” as the time when does are actually being bred. Normally, this “peak” occurs after the average hunter’s conception of the peak rut period, and is actually marked by a drop in activity and visibility of deer. Bucks and does head to the bedding areas and stay out of sight during the biological rut peak, and when that happens, the golden days of the hunting season might just be over for the year.

So which period of deer activity can actually be described as “the peak of the rut,” and what can hunters do with that information? Academically, it is difficult to argue with the biological definition of the peak of the rut. After all, it stands to reason that the peak of a deer mating season would be marked by the actual breeding of the deer.

However, the biological rut peak does little to no good for hunters. Whether or not what hunters refer to as “the peak of the rut” is actually the peak of the mating season is ultimately irrelevant when it comes to planning out hunting strategies. The hunter’s rut peak is inarguably the best time to be in the woods staking out deer, making it the peak of deer hunting season in virtually every regard. In short, our “peak of the rut” may not technically be an accurate term, but it is surely a practical one.

All the same, many locations across the country have seen the rut come and go by this point in the season. Heavily dependent on geographic means and weather patterns, the rut and its peak have ran their course, and now the time and energy spent chasing mates and battling amongst fellow bucks have caused the big boys to go into consumption mode: they’ll be moving between bedding areas and what little food may be left to prepare for the cold winter.

The opportunity in these next few weeks lie within proper food scouting, knowing where deer will be resting and sleeping, and determining the routes in between those two spots. Many states are approaching the end of their seasons, and the time to put a year’s worth of studying and scouting to work is now.

Are you still after a buck in the waning moments of your deer season? Share your story in the comments, and let us know your plan for succeeding before the season is through.

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How To Know It’s Over: Understanding the Peak of the Rut