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In a rut about the rut

So we all know it’s coming, right? Just like death and taxes and the hourly calls from telemarketers, it’s a fact of life. Deer season, that is. If you are a deer hunter, and most of you that read these words are, this is your time of year. The big show, Nirvana, the season you spend entirely too much time thinking about and browsing the internet about while you are supposed to be working.


As I have told you before I am not a rabid deer hunter, but I am glad that so many of you enjoy it. Deer hunting sells hunting licenses, keeps Wildlife Management Areas open in many states and pours millions of sportsman dollars into the economy.

Now the really big show I am talking about here is of course the rifle season, the firearms season for buck deer in each state. For most places in the eastern part of the United States this will be sometime around mid-November. Archery season is already going on and in some places has been for several weeks. Bow hunters will get more serious about hunting as we slide into November because they also want to take advantage of an event in the deer world known as the “rut.” What is the rut? I am so glad that you asked.

As I explained in lesson one on this subject, the rut or “rutting” period is the time of year when members of the deer family do their yearly duty of mating and procreating the species. As with many species, including humans, this phenomenon comes with a lot of drama and craziness not seen the rest of the year in the deer tribe, who are usually quiet and respectable solid citizens. (Humans do this year round, and I have often thought we would be better off if we had a once a year season like most animals.)

The buck deer at this time will fight each other at the drop of a hat, rub their antlers on trees, and make “scrapes” on the forest floor which they mark with their urine and scent glands, all in an attempt to attract girl deer. Nice, huh?

If you share a household with a deer hunter this is the time of year that your hunter may exhibit behavior seemingly as crazy as the deer. Not to worry, your outdoor scribe is here to help. Hopefully by explaining some of the mysteries of the rut you will be able to understand it and experience more domestic bliss during this stressful season.

• Scenario 1: Many deer hunters seem obsessed with hunting during specific days of the rut. About now all of the outdoor and hunting magazines, websites, blog posts and podcasts are featuring stories about the best days of the rut to hunt. They will be very specific and will say something like “Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 15 and the 24th are the absolute best days of the rut for 2017. Do everything you can to be in the woods on these days; don’t let work, family events or anything else keep you from hunting on these dates as this is when the big bucks will appear.”

Many deer hunters will take all of this as gospel and will abandon all to climb up in a tree on these dates. Some will lose jobs for missed work and suffer all kinds of domestic problems for missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals and other minor (to them) events. All of this to be in the woods to see a big, stinky buck deer run past them chasing a doe. It’s a deer hunter thing.

• Scenario 2: So how do these rut experts know in advance what days of the rut will be the best to hunt?

They don’t.

OK, that was mean, but maybe like me you wonder how these deer experts predict prime dates to hunt months in advance. In truth, some of these guys spend hours doing research, consulting journals from years past and poring over information like phases of the moon, temperature, barometric pressure and weather predictions. I could not get any of them to confirm my speculations that the best days of the rut also depend on tides in the ocean, who wins the World Series and how the okra crop did this year.

• Scenario 3: So, Mr. Smarty Pants Outdoor Writer, when is the best day of the rut to hunt?

Under full disclosure here I was going to say “I don’t know,” and believe you me, that is hard to say, but then it came to me. The best day for you to hunt is the day you can get to the woods. Don’t let what someone in a magazine or a website says keep you from going hunting. If you can go every day and want to, go hunting. If you have one day in the week you are able, go that day. Being there is the important thing; the rest is up to the whims of fate and a buck deer.

OK, if you really want an insider tip, here it is. Go get in your stand on Nov. 15. Yep, if you remember, that is my birthday and that is the day for you to tag that big buck. After you get him home on that day, maybe you can let me know.

Wear your blaze orange, be safe, and you’re welcome.