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Is There Really Another Rut Coming?

The first week of the 2019 shotgun season in Chautauqua County has been exciting for many and confusing for most of us.

Mother Nature threw us all a major curveball. Snow on opening day, mid-50s four days later and Thanksgiving 10 days later. Throw in the factor of things happening beyond your control and deer hunting can task the best of us. But like always, many celebrated with tags punched and filled freezers.

The one thing that always been a mystery to many is the rut, including the timing and chance of a second or even a third rut. Those deer that we all had patterned often go off the grid, so to speak.

No matter when you believe the rut started or ended — we covered this earlier this fall — the rut is a real thing and affects deer behavior in a huge way. So those who have said there are not any deer left are just a bit confused on what is actually going on in the whitetail’s world.

A bit of a recap. When the peak of rut is in full swing, bucks will be locked on does that are ready to breed. At this time, these deer are very secretive for the most part and stay very close to each other. This is when does stop traveling with fawns, which is another good way of seeing first hand that the rut is on. When the does and fawns that have been traveling together are no longer running together, the rut is on.

I am a firm believer in the rut. Knowing when the rut is full swing has helped us over the years get better opportunities at mature bucks. While the first rut is generally well-defined, the timing of a second and third rut sometimes can be difficult to establish.

I am not sure where the idea of a “second rut” originated. I would guess that an outdoor writer dreamed it up as a way to sell another article, possibly because he witnessed some late-season rutting activity. I also agree that back in the day, folks didn’t understand the rut as we do today.

Many times, I look at the rut like summer weather because we describe the rut phases as “heat.” Each year the temperatures soar in August — i.e. dog days of summer — similar to the way the rut “heats up” in November. As summer gives way to fall, the average temperatures will cool down with some random periods of warmer-than-normal weather. If we experience a spell of abnormally hot temperatures in October we don’t say we are having a second summer, we say Indian Summer. These warm spells are just part of the weather pattern as seasons change. They are never as hot nor do they last as long as the predictable August heat wave, yet they happen at some point almost every fall.

The idea of a second rut theorizes that approximately 30 days after the peak of the rut, there will be a less-intense second rut. What will happen during the second rut is any does that did not get bred during their first estrous cycle will again come into heat and many doe fawns will also come into their first heat cycle at this same time.

I am convinced that not all does can be bred in our part of the whitetail world during the short window of the first rut. Then about 28 days later the next rut begins, for does that haven’t already been bred. While the second rut isn’t as intense as the first, in the whitetail world, if a doe hasn’t been bred bucks will continue to look for them until they are bred.

While signs of the first rut are very well-defined, the second and third rut are not nearly intense as the first.

Many argue the fact of the second and third ruts. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out fawns that dropped in late May were conceived during the first part of November. Then again, fawn that dropped in June and as late as July are conceived in December.

Folks this is basic math. Do the math for yourself. For years, these fawns where called late drops. But the simple fact is breeding does continues until the end of December and into January. How can this be proven? Really simply, by being in the woods year-round.

I have seen first hand fawns being dropped in June and into July. Talk to any farmer and they will tell you stories of jumping or almost hitting fawns in fields while they are haying. Also, I have seen first hand does with fawns that could barely walk late into June and up to the Fourth of July. While this is not a scientific report, it is just one guy reporting his sighting from the field.

Hunting during the second and third ruts is much the same. Hunt does close to food sources at that time of year. The acorns and corn have all but disappeared at this point so search out any food sources during late gun season or late archery season.

While scrapes aren’t as popular at this time, they can be reopened and used, but experience has shown us that they aren’t hit hard or as often.

Calling this time of year is best left to doe bleats and tending grunts. The bucks have already figured out who the boss is, so attempting to challenge a buck at this time generally doesn’t work. Working the does is your best bet.

Just because the all the leaves have dropped doesn’t mean we can’t fill your tags during the late-season rut.

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