I live in Minnesota. For many folks in my state, this time of year means one thing: deer hunting. Fall is the time deer go into rut and lose control of their sensibility. In other words, the bucks are looking for does and forget to pay attention to their greatest danger: hunters.
I’ve been curious about the concept of rut in regard to deer. It seems all my life I’ve heard the term “rut” but have never really taken the time to fully understand it.
While I do understand the general concept (you know, the birds and the bees and all that), I’ve paid little attention to how deer rut comes about and how long it lasts. (For those of you who don’t know, rut is the season during which deer are… well, romantic enough to produce a population of fawn in the spring).
I’ve engaged in a combination of research inside and observations outside (the deer are everywhere, it seems). I began with the research. My dad (an avid hunter) always said rut was related to the moon. The late-October full moon was called the Hunter’s Moon. Now, there is a bit of controversy about whether or not rut is connected to moon phases or if it is a simple case of animal instinct. I don’t mind not knowing exactly how rut comes about; I appreciate all the mysteries of nature and focus more on the what than the why. Still, my mind is curious enough to seek answers.
Some say rut begins with the Hunter’s Moon and peaks seven days later. This year, the full Hunter’s Moon fell on October 20. Firearm opener for deer hunting fell on November 6. That spans 17 days, if my math is correct. Rut lasts about a month. Not an unreasonable theory, I think. On the contrary, I also read there is not enough evidence to prove deer are affected by the moon or gravitational forces that accompany moon phases.
I also learned warm temps and rain can affect rut. This year offered an unseasonably warm fall. Early November saw temperatures in the 70s. That is amazing, considering we often have a good accumulation of snow that time of year. I wonder if the warmth has affected rut? I’ll have to pay attention to hunting reports.
Setting my research aside, I decided to simply watch the deer and make my own observations. Deer are often moving early in the morning and late in the day. Since there is so much ruminant romance going on at present, they seem to be even more visible, not paying attention to anything besides love. Funny how romance blurs other things in life, isn’t it? We humans aren’t so different from the deer!
During my several outdoor hikes, I’ve been on the lookout for a buck, since it is during rut they are most often seen. I have yet to spot one this year and am contemplating a hike in the woods. On the other hand, I might stay out of the woods. I was trained from an early age to avoid the woods during firearms season. Too dangerous!
I did see an eight-point buck during hunting season a few years back, sauntering down a road. It was fantastic because I pulled my car over to watch him and my presence didn’t seem to faze the deer at all. In fact, the big buck stood for a long time and seemed to be looking straight at me without any fear at all. Maybe its mind was wandering and he didn’t realize I was there. I’m sure everyone can relate. Your mind if fixated on something outside of your surroundings. Like being in a daze. Maybe the buck had a beautiful doe on the mind.
Eventually, it turned to go into the woods. Just after he disappeared through the trees, a truck full of men in blaze orange jackets drove by. Hunters! I was very amused. That was the only year I shot a buck. Of course, it with my camera. Maybe this year I’ll have another chance to capture one with my lens.
While I still have more to learn about rut and exactly how it works, my research and observations helped me determine two things: the deer are currently in rut and their guard is down.
To all the firearms hunters out there: Good luck and good hunting!
To all the deer out there: RUN!