Peak Rut Dates Chart

&

White-tailed Deer Breeding Season Lengths

(The "State Rut Dates Chart" is near the bottom of this page.)

Whitetail Breeding Seasons

T.R. - 168.5 10point

Photoperiod, Climate and Yearly Breeding Dates

Contrary to what several outdoor writers and deer researchers would have you believe there is no scientific evidence to support the theories that the phase of the moon influences peak breeding of white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer in different areas breed at different times, depending on photoperiod (light hours per day), and the local climate. And the deer in those areas breed at approximately the same time each year.

Generally speaking, deer in the north breed earlier, and have shorter breeding seasons, than deer in the south, because spring arrives earlier and summer lasts longer in the south, which allows for a longer growing season for forage, and for the fawns. The breeding season (from when the first doe to the last doe gets bred) lasts 60 or more days in most areas. Therefore, expect some breeding to occur 2-4 weeks before peak breeding, and some to occur up to 1 or more months after peak breeding.

Conception Dates / Peak Breeding Dates Graph

Graph of conception dates of 1,600+ White-tailed deer, from 1980 to 1987 in MN. The data was provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 

The above graph plots weekly breeding dates for 2.5 year old or older does, 1.5 year old does, and .5 year old doe fawns in Minnesota. It shows a spike of conceptions on Nov. 12. There is also a peak in .5 year old doe fawn conceptions from Nov. 19-dec. 24. 7. The data shows that the first doe was bred the week of Oct. 1, with the last doe bred the week of Jan 28.

The graph shows that the average peak breeding date of white-tailed deer in Minnesota from 1980 - 1987 occurred during the week of Nov. 12. This study was done before the "moon phase" theories came about. It was not done to disprove the theories, and, to my knowledge, it is the largest single study ever done on the conception dates of deer.

Moon Phase / Peak Breeding Theories

During the time of the study, the second full moon after the fall equinox occurred from as early as Oct. 25 to as late as Nov. 22; it occurred most frequently during the last week of October and the second week of November. If the moon theories are right (peak breeding occurs 5-7 days after the full moon or, 5-7 days before the new moon), then peak breeding should have occurred during the week of Nov. 5; and the peak should have lasted for three weeks. But, it didn't! It lasted for one week. This graph shows no correlation between peak breeding and any lunar phase. It is conclusive evidence that the moon theories don't hold up.

Moon Phase Statements

I recently read two statements that I believe need to be cleared up. The first statement is that the "buck" harvest statistics from Illinois support the 5-7 days before the new moon/peak breeding theory. This is wrong! Buck harvest statistics prove only that bucks were active or vulnerable at that time. There is no evidence to support the idea that "stupid" buck behavior coincides with peak breeding. If anything, high buck success rates support the idea that deer (including bucks) are most active during daylight hours during the full and last quarter phases of the moon. It also proves that bucks are most likely to be killed during the guns season. I might also point out that buck harvest statistics from 1 state do not necessarily apply to the other 44 states where whitetails are found.

The other statement was something to the effect that a good indication of when breeding is over, is when scraping stops. My seven-year scrape study and the studies of other researchers show that a dramatic reduction in scraping in November often coincides with peak breeding. In other words, a drop in scraping activity often signals that peak breeding is in progress. I won't argue the idea that a complete cessation of scraping is a good indicator that most of the breeding is over, but a complete cessation in breeding may not occur until December in many areas. The Rut Activity Graph below shows that a reduction in scraping activity often occurs just before peak breeding. You should also look at the Scrape Activity Graph further down the page.

Rut Activity Graph

The graph of rubbing, scraping and breeding activity below shows that rubbing may peak as much as two months before peak breeding, and that peak scraping may occur 1-2 weeks prior to peak breeding. I will pose these questions to all of the "young bucks" out there, to those of us who wish we were still young, and to those of us who can still remember what it was like to be a "young buck." If you were a deer, and most of your breeding was restricted to 45-90 days each fall, wouldn't you act a little stupid, run around looking for females a lot, and do all the breeding you could? Would you continue to scrape when the does were willing to breed, or would you stop scraping and tend to the business at hand?

 

Data provided by the MN DNR, and T.R. Michels.

Correspondence

Here is an e-mail I received on October 31, 2003.

Dear T.R.;

I ran across an article of yours while trying to find some contact names for the Southeast deer study group. I began to read with apprehension, but was pleasantly surprised to see you had reached the same conclusions I have with respect to deer rutting behaviour and moon phases.

I recently purchased several books by the so called "Dr. Deer" (Dr. James Kroll). I read quite intently his writings about moon phases/positions and its influence (or not) on deer breeding activity. I was surprised that he does concur that the moon has an effect on rut timing, but was more surprised that the very data he uses to support this (both a chart of NA breeding dates, AND Pennsylvania breeding data) could very easily be used (to me) to disprove his theory. If deer are breeding at different times all over eastern NA, and we all experience the same hunters moon, he has just destroyed his own theory.

However, I also am a deer biologist and have access to good data for our area. Being an avid hunter as well, I have been looking at our breeding dates and timing here in New Brunswick since I began this job in 1997. Again, I found absolutely NO pattern here with our dates and the so called "hunter's moon" - the theory he purports. In the fall of 2002, after 6 years with no correlation, the peak breeding here did line up with the moon, but then again, if our deer continually breed last 2 weeks of November, first week of December, sooner or later it will - by mere coincidence - wind up on the same time as a moon.

I have written for two reasons. First, I have data on date of death of female deer (Jan.-June) along with fetal ruler measurements by which I calculate conception dates for New Brunswick since 1997. I have compared daily numbers of breeding does with moon phases, and also with actual buck harvests. I have yet to statistically compare the second set of data, but looking preliminarily at the data, hunter effort has more to do with when bucks are shot than any moon phase, etc. I'd be more than happy to share additional data from the eastern end of the country with you to further substantiate your case.

Second, I wanted to encourage you to continue to tell it like it is. To that end, you can use my name when you mention our data here in NB and that I have found the same results. Day to day weather, as well as hunting pressure & hormones influence what a deer does much more than the moon. Look forward to getting to know you.

All the best in WTD management,

Rod Cumberland, CWB, New Brunswick Deer Management Biologist
 

Breeding Season Lengths

Many hunters mistakenly believe that most of the breeding occurs within the 1-2 weeks of peak breeding. However this is far from true. Scientific studies show that breeding season lengths vary according to latitude and spring phenology (when temperatures rise above freezing and plants begin to grow). Generally speaking breeding season lengths are shorter, with more conceptions occurring during peak breeding, the farther north they are. At southern latitudes, particularly below the 36th latitude, breeding occurs over such a long time frame that it may be hard for hunters to determine a peak in breeding activity. The graph below shows when breeding may begin and end at particular latitudes. It may not represent how long the breeding season lasts in all the states within those latitudes.

To find out when breeding may begin and end in your area determine the latitude where you hunt, then check the appropriate latitude on the graph below. To determine when peak breeding occurs in your area check the Whitetail Rut DatesChart near the bottom of the page.

White-tailed Deer Breeding Season Lengths

As you can see, rarely do more than 25% of all the does in one area get bred during any one week. And you can see that in southern latitudes it may be very difficult for the average hunter to determine when peak breeding occurs, because there may be no noticeable peak in breeding activity. You can also see that breeding season lengths may last up to 14 weeks (from the first week of September to the last week of December) between the 44th and 48th parallels; up to 20 weeks (from the second week of September to the first week of February) between the 40th and 44th parallels; up to 16 weeks (from the third week of September to the first week of January between the 36th and 40th parallels; up to 21 weeks (from the last week of August to the first week of January between the 32nd and 36th parallels); and up to 32 weeks (from the last week of July to the third week of April) between the 28th and 32nd parallels. Breeding below the 28 parallel may occur during most of the year.

 

Peak Rut Phase Deer Sightings

The above graph shows the number of weekly buck and doe sightings from October 1 through December 31, 1994. By assigning Rut Phases (as stated below) to the dates on the graph I found that peaks in both buck and doe sightings occurred during the Pre-primary Breeding / Scraping Phase (October 22-28), during the Primary Breeding Phase (November 11-17), and during the Late Breeding Phase (December 17-23). The high number of deer sightings in December can be attributed to late breeding behavior, but probably more to low temperatures and limited food sources. The deer were sighted primarily near or at agricultural fields. As can be seen, peak buck sightings were correlated with peak doe sightings. My studies between 1995 and 2000 support this data.

Rut Phases & Rut Terminology

As a result of my studies I recognized eight different rut phases with their associated activities: 1. Pre-rut Rubbing, 2. Dispersal / Fall Home Range Shift, 3. Pre-primary Breeding / Scraping, 4. Primary Breeding, 5. Post Primary Breeding, 6. Rest, 7. Pre-late Breeding, and 8. Late Breeding, followed by the Post Rut. It might be argued that the Post Primary Breeding Phase is part of the Primary Breeding Phase, and the Pre-Late Breeding Phase is part of the Late Breeding Phase; and I have no problem with that argument. It is often difficult to distinguish when these phases begin and end, because their activities overlap, and because dominant and subdominant bucks are on different time schedules. Obviously the timing of these phases differs in different areas.

(The dates given are approximate for northern and mid-latitude areas, above the 40th parallel.)

Pre-Rut/Rubbing Phase (Rubbing/Scraping) Sept. 1 - 25

During the pre-rut, when bucks are beginning to rub to shed velvet, most of their activity will be in or near their core areas that contain bedding sites and late summer food sources of mast, berries, succulent grasses, clovers and agricultural crops. Scraping often begins at this time, especially if nighttime temperatures fall below 45 degrees. Most of the early scrapes are created by dominant bucks. My studies show that bucks travel primarily at dawn and dusk during this phase. They may rub and scrape during the day in the cover of their core areas when there is a full moon.

Dispersal Phase / Fall Home Range Shift (Rubbing/Scraping) Sept. 15 - Oct. 15

With rising testosterone levels bucks become more aggressive and no longer travel in groups. Bucks in some areas may shift from their summer core area to a fall core area, and begin using larger home ranges as they search for preferred food sources to put on fat for the winter. They may travel through several doe home ranges in preparation for breeding. Scraping may diminish at this time. My studies show that bucks begin to leave core areas later in the evening, and go back to core areas earlier in the morning during this phase.

Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase (Rubbing/Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Oct. 15 - Nov. 5

Two to three weeks before the primary breeding phase bucks begin to travel their rub routes, making rubs and scrapes. Most of the scrapes at this time are still made by dominant bucks. While most scent marking activity occurs at night, bucks do travel their rub routes in cover during the day making rubs and scrapes. Rub routes generally lead from buck core areas in the evening, through doe use areas, to night time food sources, then back through doe use areas to buck core areas in the morning. Scrape activity usually peaks at the end of this phase. My studies show that bucks may travel to food sources in the early afternoon and stay there until late in the morning. During the full moon I often see bucks along their rub routes an hour or more before sunset. Some does may come into estrous and be bred during this phase. Because bucks are exerting dominance, they are extremely aggressive and will fight almost anything. Does that are not ready

Pre-Rut/Rubbing Phase (Rubbing/Scraping) Sept. 1 - 25

During the pre-rut, when bucks are beginning to rub to shed velvet, most of their activity will be in or near their core areas that contain bedding sites and late summer food sources of mast, berries, succulent grasses, clovers and agricultural crops. Scraping often begins at this time, especially if nighttime temperatures fall below 45 degrees. Most of the early scrapes are created by dominant bucks. My studies show that bucks travel primarily at dawn and dusk during this phase. They may rub and scrape during the day in the cover of their core areas when there is a full moon.

Dispersal Phase / Fall Home Range Shift (Rubbing/Scraping) Sept. 15 - Oct. 15

With rising testosterone levels bucks become more aggressive and no longer travel in groups. Bucks in some areas may shift from their summer core area to a fall core area, and begin using larger home ranges as they search for preferred food sources to put on fat for the winter. They may travel through several doe home ranges in preparation for breeding. Scraping may diminish at this time. My studies show that bucks begin to leave core areas later in the evening, and go back to core areas earlier in the morning during this phase.

Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase (Rubbing/Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Oct. 15 - Nov. 5

Two to three weeks before the primary breeding phase bucks begin to travel their rub routes, making rubs and scrapes. Most of the scrapes at this time are still made by dominant bucks. While most scent marking activity occurs at night, bucks do travel their rub routes in cover during the day making rubs and scrapes. Rub routes generally lead from buck core areas in the evening, through doe use areas, to night time food sources, then back through doe use areas to buck core areas in the morning. Scrape activity usually peaks at the end of this phase. My studies show that bucks may travel to food sources in the early afternoon and stay there until late in the morning. During the full moon I often see bucks along their rub routes an hour or more before sunset. Some does may come into estrous and be bred during this phase. Because bucks are exerting dominance, they are extremely aggressive and will fight almost anything. Does that are not ready to breed at this time often run from bucks, hence the term "chasing phase."

Primary Breeding Phase (Rubbing/Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Nov. 1 - 25

Once the does come into estrous the bucks will travel during all hours of the day in search of them. The bucks may stop traveling their rub routes, and follow doe trails instead. Rubbing and scraping by dominants usually diminishes at this time because the bucks are searching for and breeding does. However, fresh rubs and scrapes may be created by subdominant bucks because the dominant bucks are more interested in does than making rubs and scrapes or exerting dominance over the subdominants. Although the full moon may not cause increased activity during peak breeding, daytime buck activity will be high as long as does remain in estrous. Generally there is above normal daytime activity during the two to three weeks when the does are in estrous, no matter what the moon phase is.

Post Primary Breeding Phase (Searching/Scraping/Breeding) Nov. 20 - 25

After most of the does have been bred some dominant and subdominant bucks the bucks may travel their rub routes, and visit doe use areas and food sources during the day, especially if there is a full moon. My studies show that bucks may move at any time of the day during this rut phase, no matter what the moon phase is.

Rest Phase (minimal Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Nov. 20 - Dec. 5

During the two to three weeks after the post primary breeding phase bucks that took part in breeding may stay in their core areas, where they feed on mast, any remaining green grass, leaves or clover, and agricultural crops or browse. Most buck activity will occur at night or in secure wooded areas during the late evening and early morning hours. The full moon may cause bucks to become active during the day, but I seldom see dominant bucks outside their core areas during this phase. Rubs and scrapes occurring outside buck core areas at this time may be made by subdominants.

Pre-Late Breeding Phase (Rubbing/Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Dec. 1 - 10

Two to three weeks after peak breeding some dominant and subdominant bucks may begin traveling their rub routes again, usually on their way to and from food sources. They may rub and scrape while they travel with, or search for, estrous does during the day, especially if there is a full moon. When temperatures are colder than normal daytime activity may occur from two to three hours before sunset to an hour after sunset; and from an hour before sunrise to three to four hours after sunrise.

Late Breeding Phase (Rubbing/Scraping/Searching/Breeding) Dec. 10 - Dec. 25

Approximately a month after the primary breeding phase unbred older does come into a second estrous; and some older, and 1.5 year old does come into their first estrous. Dominant and subdominant bucks often travel their rub routes, making rubs and scrapes, and visit doe use and feeding areas in their search for receptive does. Daytime activity may occur from two to three hours before sunset to an hour after, and from an hour before sunrise to three to four hours after, especially when the weather is colder than normal and there is cloud cover. I often see dominant and subdominant bucks with the does as they travel to and from food sources during this phase, especially during the full moon.

Post Rut Dec. 25-Jan. 15

After the rut ends, and when food sources are limited, cold night time and morning temperatures may cause both bucks and does to travel during the afternoon and early evening hours. They may also feed late in the morning when there is prolonged severe weather. My studies show that when the temperature or wind-chill was below 10 degrees, and when there was limited food, three times more deer were sighted in the afternoon and evening than at any other time during the fall. When extreme conditions occur the moon has very little influence on daytime deer activity.

 

 

 

 

Scrape Activity

The above graph shows scrape use by Rut Phase, with new scrapes (first time use) and re-used scrapes (two or more time use) for 103 different scrapes, from early September through late December of 2000. While I found it interesting that there was an apparent 3-week cycle to scrape activity, I don't believe this will occur in all areas. What I did find interesting was that during the Pre-Primary Breeding / Scraping Phase the number of new scrapes decreased, while the number of scrapes that were re-used increased. In other words; two to three weeks before peak breeding (during what is generally referred to as the Pre-Primary Breeding / Scraping Phase), the bucks made fewer new scrapes, and began to re-work older / pre-existing scrapes more frequently. As you can see by the graph, this is when peak scrape activity occurs. As far as I know I am the first researcher to document this activity.

When I looked at the type of terrain or habitat where the frequently re-used scrapes were, I discovered that most of them were in low-lying, brushy or wooded areas, where deer trails often ended near food sources. Many deer hunters refer to these low-lying / brushy / wooded (secure) areas near food sources as "staging areas" where the deer may spend some time in the evening before they enter open feeding areas, where they feed at dusk.

Since these "frequently re-used" scrapes often occur in low-lying / brushy / wooded (secure) areas, they are sometimes visited and used by bucks during daylight hours (in the late afternoon or early evening hours just before dusk). These "frequently re-used" Pre-Primary Breeding / Scraping Phase scrapes, in "secure" areas are the scrapes I like to check and hunt near when I "pattern" deer. They can be excellent hunting locations during the 2-3 weeks before "peak breeding." Because these scrapes are in or near "staging areas" and food sources, that the does frequent as long as the food is still there, the areas near these scrapes are also good hunting sites during "peak breeding" (the Primary Breeding Phase).

 

There is more information on deer activity in the Whitetail Addict's Manual and the Deer Addict's Manual, Volume 5, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.

Got Questions? Log on to the "T.R.'s Tips" Message Board

Donít know why the chart will not center - but it wonít.

 

STATE

AREA

BREEDING DATES

PEAK

BREEDING

SOURCE

Alabama

 

 

Jan 18-23

 

 

 

m Nov-l Mar

 

Lueth 1967

 

Northeast

l Nov-e Jan

 

Adams 1960

Arizona

(Coues deer)

m Nov-m Jan

 

 

Arkansas

 

 

Nov 18-25

 

 

 

e Oct-m Jan

 

Donaldson

Holder 1945

 

 

m Aug-Feb

 

 

Colorado

 

 

Nov 24-30

 

Connecticut

 

 

Nov 16-22

 

 

 

l Sept-e Jan

 

McDowell

1966

Delaware

 

 

Nov 7-15

 

Florida

North

 

Dec 30-Jan 6

 

 

Central

 

Jan 1-13

 

 

South

 

Jan 22-28

 

Georgia

North

 

Nov 30

 

 

Central

 

Dec 7-15

 

 

South

 

m-Nov-m Dec

 

 

South

m Oct-m Dec

Nov 15-30

Kile, Marchinton 1977

Illinois

 

 

Nov 10-20

 

Indiana

 

 

Nov 14-16

 

Iowa

 

 

Nov 13-18

 

 

 

 

Nov

Haugen 1958

Kansas

 

 

Nov 15-17

 

Louisiana

Southwest

 

Oct 15

 

 

Northwest

 

Nov 15

 

 

Eastern

 

Jan 1

 

 

Avery Island

Sept 26-Dec 9

Oct 1-31

Robertson, Dennet 1966

 

Delta Refuge

Nov 15-Jan 18

Dec 14-29

""

 

Evangeline GMA

Oct 18-31

Oct 18-31

""

 

Jackson Bien GMA

Dec 2-Jan 26

Dec 1-15

""

 

Red Dirt GMA

Oct 22-Jan 26

Dec 1-15

""

 

Tensas Parish

Dec 10-Feb 26

Jan 1-15

""

 

West Bay GMA

Sept 27-Dec 9

Oct 16-31

""

Michigan

Lower

Oct 9-Dec 5

Nov 8-15

 

 

Upper Peninsula

Oct 26-Nov 5

Nov 12-19

 

Maine

 

Oct 20-Dec 28

m Nov

Banasiak 1961

Maryland

 

 

Nov 1-15

 

Massachusetts

 

 

Nov 12-15

 

 

 

Oct 31-Jan 29

Nov 10-25

Shaw, McLaughlin 1951

Minnesota

 

m Sept-e Feb

Nov 1-22

Erickson et al 1961

 

Southern

m Oct-l Dec

 

Michels 1994

Mississippi

North

 

Dec 7-23

 

 

South

 

Jan 11-18

 

 

 

Dec 5-Feb 22

Dec 18-31

Noble 1960

Missouri

 

Oct -e Dec

 

Robb 1951

Montana

 

 

Nov 10-16

 

Nebraska

 

 

Nov 10-15

 

 

 

Oct 21-Mar 1

 

Havel 1963, 1964

New Hampshire

 

 

Nov 10-20

 

 

 

 

m Nov

Silver 1957

New Jersey

 

l Oct-Jan

 

Mangold 1958, 63

New York

 

 

Nov 6-17

 

North Carolina

Lower Coast

 

Nov 23

 

 

Upper Coast

 

Nov 7

 

 

Piedmont

 

Nov 18

 

 

Mountain

 

Dec 5

 

New Mexico

(Coues deer)

m Dec- m Jan

 

 

North Dakota

 

 

Nov 15-20

 

Ohio

 

 

Nov 14-16

 

 

 

Oct 22-Dec 9

 

Gillfillan 1952

Oklahoma

 

 

Nov 14-19

 

Oregon

 

 

m Nov

 

Pennsylvania

 

Sept 9-Dec 23

Oct 16-Dec 16

Alt 2002

Rhode Island

 

 

Nov 8-13

 

South Carolina

 

 

Nov 17-30

 

 

 

 

Nov 17-Dec 13

Payne 1966

South Dakota

 

 

Nov 15-20

 

Tennessee

 

 

Nov 18-21

 

 

 

Oct 29-Feb 9

 

Lewis 1972

Texas

 

 

Dec 15-24

Illige 1951

 

West

 

Dec 1-7

 

 

Hill Country

 

Nov 15-20

 

 

South

 

Dec 10-17

 

Piney Woods

North

Oct 21-Jan 16

Nov 15

 

 

South

" "

Nov 10

Williams et al 2002

Gulf Prairies & Marshes

North

 

Oct 5

" "

Post Oak Savannah

South

Sept 30-Jan 16

Nov 10

" "

 

Central

" "

Oct 25

" "

Cross Timbers

North

Oct 13- Dec 17

Nov 10

" "

 

South

" "

Nov 15

" "

South Texas Plains

East

Nov 9-Feb

Dec 15

" "

 

West

" "

Nov 20

" "

Edwards Plateau

East

Oct 9-Jan 30

Nov 1

" "

 

Central

" "

Nov 20

" "

 

West

" "

Dec 5

" "

Rolling Hills

South

Oct 8-Dec 30

Nov 20

" "

 

North

" "

Dec 1

" "

 

South

 

Dec 1

" "

Trans Pecos

 

Nov 4- Jan 14

Dec 10

" "

Vermont

 

 

Nov 13-18

 

 

 

e Nov-m Dec

 

Day 1964

Virginia

 

Oct 1-l Nov

Nov 10

Anonymous 1948

Washington

 

 

Nov 10-18

 

West Virginia

 

 

Nov 8-13

 

Wisconsin

 

Oct 1-Jan 8

Nov 3-8

 

Wyoming

 

 

Nov 15-20

 

Copyright 2000-20012 T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Publishing

 

 

 

 

There is more information on deer activity ad the rut in the Whitetail Addict's Manual and the Deer Addict's Manual, Volume 5, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.

Got Questions? Log on to the "T.R.'s Tips" Message Board

 

Trinity Mountain Outdoors Home Page

T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors
E-mail:
trmichels@yahoo.com Website: www.TRMichels.com

Trinity Mountain Outdoors Home Page I Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog

T.R. Michels' Guide Service / Hunting Trips I Whitetail / Turkey / Elk / Waterfowl Hunting & Guide School

"T.R.'s Tips" Message Board I Trinity Mountain Outdoor News

T.R.'s Hunting Tips & Articles I Daily Updates on Outdoor News

T.R. Michels' Seminar Schedule I Christian Witness / Articles

Links to Other Websites I TRMichesl.com Webring / Hunting Site Directory

Join TRMichels.com Webring I Advertising & Public Relations I Contact Us