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 Peak Rut, How To Predict It Where You Hunt. 
 by Dennis Crabtree
  
The Whitetail breeding period lasts longer than most people realize. Here in Ohio a few does are bred in October  but the actual peak occurs in November and ends in December. Breeding rapidly increases the first 10 to 12 days of November then decreases quickly after the peak which which is between the 10th to the 13th of Nov. each year. 

These dates also probably apply to states surrounding Ohio and other states as well. I don't know about the timing of the rut in the Southern States but to those of you who want to know you can try to predict it the same way that I do.  In 1983 I started taking notes on the deer that I hunt and the area that I hunt each day. I log the stand that I'm in the deer I saw the weather conditions and the sunset time and the date. By comparing buck and doe sightings over a 3 to 4 year period I came to know the area's peak breeding time to be when the sun sets at 5:18.  When I first began keeping a record of my hunting I didn't include the sunset times.

At the end of the first season of keeping a log I reviewed what I had and really didn't see where I had gained anything of great significance.  After thinking of what else I could add I realized I should add the sunset time to my notes.  Why? Because biologists believe that Photoperiodism has a profound effect on whitetails. Doe Heat Cycles and Buck Testosterone Levels are based on the amount of daylight hours in a 24 hour period they call photoperiodism.  You can check with your state deer biologists to verify this fact.  From that point on I included the sunset time.  The reason I didn't include the sunrise time was that the majority of my hunting was in the evening so I figured that sunset time related more to when I would be hunting.  I don't know what affect sunrise times would have on what I've learned but to this day I haven't used them simply because I don't get to hunt mornings that often.
  
So to determine the peak of the rut for the deer you hunt you will need a sunset reference of your geographic region.  The Weather Channel is what I used to use, now I use Weather Underground on the net at www.wunderground.com  just type in your zip code to get the weather data and sunset time for your area.  Choose a source for your sunset time and don't use any other.  The reason is that all sunset tables are different because of your specific location and also because the ones the the various DNR'S issue will not be quite as accurate.  Simply record the sunset time each day you hunt and relate it to the buck and doe activity you witness each day.  The closer to the peak of the rut you get the bigger and the more bucks you will see interacting with the doe's until u finally see the biggest buck or bucks with their nose in a doe's butt following every move she makes, at the same time there may be other bucks in pursuit of the same doe but the bigger buck will keep them from taking her away from him. 

Compare this kind of activity ,and similar activity during the rut and you are on your way to predicting when your peak occurs. Just compare it to the sunset times and use those sunset times the following season to guide you.  If you are an inexperienced hunter it will take you a little longer than the experienced hunter because the experienced hunter will have the knowledge to keep him where there is almost always deer activity.  Keep in mind however that you will need data from several seasons of this kind of deer behavior to nail down when your peak will occur and so will the hunter with more experience. 

Pay particular attention to what's happening when the sunsets at the same time two days in a row.  I believe that under the right circumstances it is triggering does into heat.  When you start seeing fewer mature bucks interacting with the does or within the doe areas that you hunt then peak breeding is over.  Breeding still occurs and sunset times are still important but your notes will show you that the peak has occurred.  The number one priority here is to get your information on paper.  Another important thing you need to know is that you need to stay in the same general hunting areas year after year until you have their peak rut times formulated. 

Then you can expand your hunting to other areas.  I'm not saying you shouldn't hunt other areas, I believe you should, but your data will be more accurate if it is on a specific hunting area.  But you will be able to apply it to any of your hunting areas after you realize the results of your findings.  Just remember this, if they all came into heat the same exact time it would be impossible for all of them to breed.  By realizing this you should agree it is why the breeding period lasts longer than most hunters realize.  I would also like to tell you that the biggest whitetail buck I ever saw from my treestand had his nose in a does butt at what turned out to be peak rut in my area, 5:18 two days in a row and he is one of only four bucks I have seen that no doubt were boone and crocket bucks.  Thanks to using sunset times my notes have showed me how to predict when the deer are at or near the peak of the rut where I hunt.

Predicting the second rut only became apparent to me in recent years.  Knowing what I do about the peak rut, and how I learned what I know, I figured that the second rut should be sunset related.  Guess What?  It Is!   This is how you predict the second rut. Near early December start watching the sunset time each day.  Pay no attention to sunrise.  In early Dec. the sun will set at the same time several days in a row.  You should establish this and continue to record the sunset time. 

All of a sudden it will start to set one minute later.  This is what you are watching for.  One minute later.  This is your signal that the second rut is at hand.  Not necessarily that first minute change but very soon the second rut ( the doe fawns that it will happen to will begin to come into estrus) for the first time.

Hunting this second rut absolutely requires that you know where the doe groups are at, because the doe fawns are a part of those groups.  Without knowing where they are at you won't realize the second rut is taking place.  Also only about 25 to 30 percent of those fawns will come into heat so that makes it even more important to know where these groups are bedding and feeding at.  The only way you will ever have such knowledge is to keep notes.  It is especially important that you don't stop hunting just because the peak rut has passed. 

If you stop hunting after the peak you will surely loose track of them unless you have written data to help you choose a place to find them. Good old record keeping is worth it's weight in dead bucks. Here in Ohio the second rut will begin around the 19th to 20th of December.  In this sport and others there are always others who don't agree and I don't doubt for a minute that there are those who will disagree with me about how to determine when peak rut occurs.  If you will, try to find other written data to compare to this and decide for yourself what will work best for you.  After 27 yrs. of bowhunting I really doubt you'll find many other methods of determining when the peak truly occurs. 

I am sharing this knowledge with you in the spirit of the hunt and for no other reason.  I sincerely hope that you would do the same for me if you learn from what I share here.  If you find what I have learned work's for you please share it with another deerhunter.  Sharing this info is not for profit or personal gain.  It is only so that you can gain knowledge of "OL WHITEY". 

Have fun and enjoy deerhunting as much as I do.

Dennis Crabtree Jackson, Ohio

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