Deer & Deer Hunting

PRE-RUT REALITIES

White-tailed deer are short-day breeders; they breed in autumn when day length (photoperiod) is decreasing. It is this autumn decrease in the amount of daylight that triggers sharp seasonal changes in deer physiology, behavior, and nutritional requirements.

The whitetail’s breeding window is narrow in the North, but widens southward until breeding takes place year-round near the equator. As a result, variations in commencement and duration of the rut can be expected from North to South.

Hunters commonly refer to the period immediately preceding breeding as the “pre-rut” — a unique period when deer behavior can change overnight, requiring equally unique and versatile hunting tactics.

Obviously, the pre-rut terminates when breeding starts. But when does it start? How does deer behavior change during the course of the pre-rut? And, more importantly, precisely what exact changes take place in deer behavior that hunters should be alert to and can take advantage of?

DIFFERING VIEWS

A search of the scientific literature reveals a scarcity of reference to the pre-rut period and virtually no summary of events involved. At least one reference, from Texas, suggests the pre-rut commences four to six weeks before the first does breed.

Even deer experts tend to vary in their views concerning the pre-rut. For example, in a Deer & Deer Hunting article Charles Alsheimer discussed in detail the so-called “September lull, October lull or pre-rut lull” when bucks seem

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