Timing the 2009 whitetail rut
If you are a deer hunterand like to hunt with archery gear for whitetails, when is the best week to ask the boss for vacation time?
We do not want to miss the most exciting time in the deer woods, the peak of the whitetail’s breeding cycle!
The 2008 season should have proved for once and for all, that the vaunted “First Week of November” is not always the best time to take off time from work to bow hunt whitetails.
The year was a mirror image of 2005, when the primary action occurred in the final days of October and the first couple days of November in most areas of the whitetail’s range in the Northeast.
And likewise for bow benders in the upcoming 2009 season, the first week of November will not be the best time to hunt.
No doubt any time is a great time of year to be in the woods, but sometimes are better than others, and most of us have to choose days.
The best time for bow hunters to take off this upcoming season from New York state to Illinois is the weekend of Nov. 14, and hunt the final week of archery up to the beginning of gun season.
Crazy as it may seem to some, archers a hundred miles or so north and south of the 42nd parallel, this side of the Mississippi, should have taken off the final week in October during the 2008 season (just like in 2005) if they wanted to take advantage of that magical time called the Peak of the Rut, when the Whitetail Breeding Nucleus forms throughout most of the deer woods.
The prime time for whitetails varies from year to year. During bow season each year, one week is hot with action and sightings, and like clockwork, another week is dead. Feast or famine. Whitetails need a rest to catch their breaths after a period of intense activity.
Different statistical models have proven the veracity of the fact that whitetails breed at different times on subsequent years, from fawn birth studies to autopsies on pregnant does, victims of vehicle-deer collisions in the spring as a gauge of rutting activity.
This fetal backdating is determined by measuring the fetus and comparing those measurements to fetus’ with known conception dates.
Every year there are periods of higher breeding activity and exceptional diurnal (daytime, opposite of nocturnal), movement. There are ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs of whitetail activity through the hunting seasons.
Whitetail rut prognosticators down through the years have attempted to devise a foolproof pattern to predict these bouts of peak hormonal flow, when the bucks run almost day and night for a few days each year, forming the Breeding Nucleus.
There are always three sequential patterns of breeding activity, about a month apart and they each vary in degrees of intensity.
Those interested can easily validate when the previous year’s Breeding Nucleus was formed in their state or region by checking the Rut Activity posts on the hunting Web sites.
When 2008’s first week of November rolled around all went quiet, just like it did in 2005. And as the middle of the month approached, the bucks were settled in and bedding with the does.
But that’s the past. This year - the upcoming ‘09 season sees the Hunter’s Moon (the first full moon AFTER the harvest moon) on Oct. 7. Most years, the harvest moon rises on a September night.
But not this year.
The harvest moon, by definition, is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (the first day of fall).
And this year the equinox falls on Sept. 23. The full moon in October is closer to the equinox than the September full moon, therefore, the October full moon is the harvest moon. And the hunter’s moon always follows the harvest moon.
Hunters will read the telltale, preliminary signs of the formation of the Breeding Nucleus in the first week of the 2009 NYS Southern Zone archery season.
That’s when the bucks and does will be creating overhanging-branch scrapes.
Also, there should be good (better than normal for the first week of November) diurnal buck movement this year during the moon’s first quarter. And a greater tendency for daytime movement will head into the following week (full moon.) That’s when we will hear stories of some giant bucks being arrowed at noon.
Then, on the following weekend, hunters will be heard saying “the rut is on,” as the cycle reaches a climax of activity (Nov. 13).
Wild times in the woods as the Breeding Nucleus reaches critical mass, and expect the breeding explosion to extend into the middle of November, tailing off by the third week of that magical month.