PORT ARTHUR —
No question is asked more from October through December than the following.
“When is the rut?”
Actually there are several variants on that question.
“Did I miss the rut?
“Did we have a rut?
My constant point of reference is “The Rut in Whitetail Deer” put out by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
I point to at least some portion of it annually and since we are entering rut periods in portions of the state is time to give an in-depth look at this fascinating study.
TPWD biologists found most breeding activity happened from October 21 to January 5.
“Peak breeding dates were November 22 in the northern portion and November 12 in the southern part of the Pineywoods. Does showed a 96 percent pregnancy rate and averaged 1.7 fawns each. The majority (90 percent) of the fawns are born by June 29 in the northern area and by June 19 in the southern area.”
For the Edwards Plateau (Hill Country), conception dates ranged from as early as October 9 to a late date of January 30. The Edwards Plateau, Texas' highest deer production region was divided into three areas for the study. The eastern part had a peak breeding date of November 7. Peak breeding for the central portion was November 24, and the western area had a peak date of December 5 according to TPWD
“South Texas had the latest rut in the state. Breeding dates ranged from November 9 to February 1 during the three years. In the eastern part of the area the peak breeding date was December 16, while in the west it was December 24.”
To answer questions about missing the rut, etc. TPWD had some practical data that can help hunters.
According to TPWD a doe may be attractive to bucks for about five days, but may be willing to breed for a period of only 24 hours. If the doe is not bred during her first cycle, she will generally come into heat again about 28 days later.”
“In areas where there are few bucks, a doe may not encounter a buck when she is first receptive and may not be bred until one of her later cycles. A hunter, landowner or biologist who sees the late breeding activity may be convinced that there was a late rut. On the other hand, those who see does attended by bucks in the early part of the season believe there was an early rut. This helps explain the wide variety of opinions on the timing of the rut during a particular year.”
TPWD also reported that "Hunter chronology" has a lot to do with the perceived timing of the rut.
“Traditionally, hunters are more likely to be afield during cool weather. They will usually be out in force with the onset of the first weekend norther during the deer season. When there are many observers spending time in the field it is more likely that breeding activity will be noticed.”
“Bucks, like hunters, have a tendency to move around during cool weather. Bucks with hardened antlers are ready to breed and are looking for a willing doe. More movement means more opportunity to encounter a receptive doe. This increased movement helps give rise to the idea that cold weather causes the rut. However, this theory is disproved by white-tailed deer breeding in tropical climates.”
The rut is not a defined time as there are many things that make it happen. It could be that there are not a whole lot of bucks on the leases where hunters complained of a lack of rut or that many of the does were bred when there were few hunters in the woods.