There are a lot of theories, science and old wise tales that float around on what actually triggers the whitetail deer rut. One of the more consistent theories I heard while growing up was that the timing of the rut was related to the moon phases, also known as the “Rutting Moon.” However, an article from The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) challenges this theory and claims that no actual link exists between the moon phases and deer breeding activity.
As the article and graphic below depicts, the concentration of when does are bred consistently falls within the same time period year after year - the last two weeks of November and the first week of December. The graphic also clearly shows that the date of the full moon varies widely from year to year, yet the majority of the breeding still consistently falls within the same time period…debunking the “Rutting Moon” theory. To be even more precise, the average of all breeding activity routinely falls within in a 7 day period across all nine years of the study, and in eight out of the nine years, it fell within the same 4 day period: November 26 - 29.
Source for image and article here.
So what then triggers breeding activity? This article points to the changes in daylight as we get closer to winter. The transition to shorter days kickstarts the hormones in deer, which eventually leads to breeding season a.k.a. “The Rut.” The research for this QDMA article comes from biologists out of the New Brunswick DNR office who visited deer road-kill sites to collect their samples from pregnant does between the years of 1997 and 2005. More on the actual study can be found in the article here.
What does all this mean for us whitetail hunters who try to line up our calendars with the rut each year? This study points suggests that with realativley high probability we can plan for the breeding season to routinely fall within the same time frame year to year. However, understanding when that is in your area is another story, but at least this articles helps to take some of the guessing out of the cat and mouse game we play each fall.
Now that we got you thinking, it’s important to start building up that knowledge of when deer are breeding in the areas you hunt. If you start to collect this information, you can build that historical knowledge of deer activity in your area and zero in on when to routinely expect the peak of those big bucks chasing does. The Quiver Hunting App is a great tool to help you track and build that historical knowledge in your area. To learn more, visit the Quiver Hunting App homepage.