Bucks haven’t even sprouted brow tines yet, but I’m already dreaming about the rut. With five long months between myself and the best days of hunting, the wait isn’t getting any easier.
Is it five months, though? Well, that depends on what you believe in.
The Rut and the Moon
If you think the moon rules the rut, then plan on using your vacation days late this year.
Charles Alsheimer and Wayne Laroche, producers of the Deer and Deer Hunting 2016 Lunar Calendar, have identified November 14th as this year’s rutting moon. The rutting moon, based on their research, is always the second full moon after autumn equinox. They believe this triggers the peak in rutting activity, relying on a model that links changes in solar and lunar illumination to whitetail reproductive cycles.
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2013 had a similar rutting moon, landing on November 17th. Like that year, Alsheimer and Laroche think this could be another “trickle rut.” Seeking phase is predicted to begin around November 7th, chasing phase around November 14th, and tending phase around November 21st.
The Rut and Cold Snaps
If you believe cold snaps are what get deer on their feet, then recent weather patterns say the second weekend of November is going be a buck marathon.
I looked at daily temperatures from the last five years for areas in Nebraska and Kentucky, choosing these two states because they span the heart of whitetail country. I recorded all cold snaps for the month of November, marking down days where the average temp and lowest temp were more than 5 degrees lower than the day before. This subtle change only occurs about three to six times a month.
Incredibly though, a cold snap in Nebraska has fallen on every November 11th for the last four years. Cold snaps were also recorded for the same area on the 6th or 7th for four of the last five years.
Kentucky also has some consistencies. The 5th-7th, 12th-14th and 23rd-25th seem to be reliable for drop in temp, with each range experiencing cold snaps in four of the last five years.
The Rut and Crop Harvest
If you feel that the crop harvest is a factor in the rut, then 2016 is looking to be a toss-up.
When it comes to the harvest and the rut, some feel that too much crop cover can affect deer movement and result in a lack of sightings. While most years it’s hard to predict when corn will come out, this year it’s even harder.
Standing corn provides a ton of cover for deer to hide in during the fall. If it’s a late harvest, you’ll likely see less deer.
As I type this, scientists are monitoring patterns that potentially show El Nino is coming to an end, while La Nina is being ushered in. For the Midwest, this means warmer and drier conditions are on the way. If that’s the case, then an early harvest seems imminent.
However, harvest is a very fluid situation. One timely shot of rain can be all the difference for keeping combines out of the fields, but this year it doesn’t look like crops will be holding deer for very long.
The Rut and Day Length
If you like to go by what biologists have to say, then this year’s rut will be just like any other.
Contrary to many hunters’ beliefs, academic studies show that the rut is based on photoperiod. This means the rut is triggered by decreasing day length, which initiates the estrous cycle in does.
In southeastern Canada, an extensive nine-year study showed that most fawns were conceived between November 27th-29th, with little variation among years. In Missouri, a similar three-year study showed that November 15th is when the majority of breeding takes place. Based on this, the week leading up to those dates in those areas would be the ideal time to see rutting activity.
The Rut and All the Factors
If you put stock in every rut related theory, then 2016 has a pretty defined window of prime hunting. Based on moon phases, weather patterns, harvest forecast and photoperiod studies, November 6th-13th looks like the ideal time to kill a rutting buck.
Data Driven Peak Rut Activity Dates for Each Region
Click the Image Below for Full Report and Dates