What is Deer Rut – 4 Phases You Should Know

What is Deer Rut and How Long Does a Whitetail Deer Rut Last?

The deer rut is a period of time when the whitetail deer are mating. Deer rut typically occurs in November and can extend into early December.

During deer rut, male whitetail deer are in their most aggressive state. They will fight to compete for mates or try to find new territory to roam. They also drool and grunt a lot, which is probably the origin of the term “rut.”

There are several phases of the deer rut including:

  1. Pre Rut Phase – Early season before does enter estrus.
  2. Seeking Phase – Beginning of the rut when does start entering estrus.
  3. Chasing Phase – Peak rut when does are in estrus and bucks are actively seeking them for breeding.
  4. Post Rut Phase – After does leave estrus and bucks return to their typical cautious behavior.

During each phase, whitetail bucks will behave differently. We will explore each of these phases and discuss what you can expect to see as a hunter in the field.

Pre Rut Phase

The pre-rut, or “early rut” is the time period before the start of heavy interactions with does. The term pre-rut distinguishes it from an actual gestation period or mating.

The pre-rut phase will occasionally bring bucks out of hiding, but not completely. They are still in a transition period between when it pre-rut ends and when chasing begins (which typically happens during October).

During this time, you might see bucks out of their normal hiding spots, but not really exhibiting what you would typically expect during the deer rut.

The pre-rut phase is the time in which bucks start forming scrapes, rubs, and fraying on trees or branches. Rut signs are a good indication of a buck settling in nearby.

The pre-rut phase is followed by the rut or mating season. The whitetail deer will start to seek out does for breeding at this time of year.

Seeking Phase

During the seeking phase of whitetail deer rut, it is believed that does will start to come into estrus.

This is what hunters are typically waiting for in order to begin seeing bigger bucks out roaming the woods. These bucks are looking to find a doe that they can breed with and that desire oftentimes will exceed the buck’s need for safety.

During this phase of the deer rut, don’t be surprised if you see an increase in buck movement and activity around your hunting area. You might also see more bucks fighting with each other.

Chasing Phase

The most exciting period of the rut and what every hunter wants to see is when the bucks start chasing the does.

The chasing phase typically occurs in November and can last into early December. This time of the rut is typically referred to as peak rut as the bucks only have one thing on their minds during this period – breeding does.

During the chasing phase, it is common to see bucks acting very aggressively while chasing does. This can include bucks fighting with each other to establish dominance for the rights to breed with a doe in heat in the area.

Post Rut Phase

Once a buck has successfully bred one or more does, it will go back into what is called the post-rut phase of the whitetail deer rut.

This typically occurs around late December to early January when most breeding stops.

During this time, a buck will typically be less active and go back into its hiding spots. It has what it wants from the doe so now it is regressing back to normal behavior.

Post rut is a difficult time to hunt because the deer are very cautious due to the high number of hunters in the field during the rut.

The Second Rut

Most does enter estrus during the first rutting period. However, a few does will go into estrus during the so-called second rut.

The second rut occurs about 28 days after the first rut and can last a few weeks.

It is common for female fawns to come into estrus during this time. However, fawns are not mating as often as older deer.

It is worth noting that as does come back into heat, the bucks can get aggressive again. This is a good time to be in the field because you might see more activity than what is typical of post rut.

Hunting During the Deer Rut

What should you expect white hunting during the rut?

During each of these phases, what you should expect changes drastically depending on the phase of the deer rut you are hunting.

During the pre-rut and seeking phase, bucks will typically be hiding out during the day and feeding at night. They are still somewhat aggressive (especially if another buck is around their territory), but they do not want to attract attention from what might be a competitor for breeding rights with does that could potentially roam into their area.

During the chasing phase, bucks might be out and about during the day because it is what they are most focused on – finding a doe that is in heat. This is the best time to use deer calls and rattles as the bucks are eagerly looking for a doe to breed. Stay in your stand or blind as much as possible during this phase because you can see a deer any time of the day.

During the post rut, bucks will be much more cautious. It is best not to use rattling antlers or deer calls at this time of year because it is more likely to scare the deer away than pull them to your stand. This is a good time to return to early season hunting techniques around bedding areas and food areas.

With what we have covered, you should now know what to expect as a hunter during each phase of the whitetail deer rut and how it changes the deer’s behavior.

You can harvest a deer anytime during the season, but you are more likely to take a trophy buck during the rut.

Best Deer Attractant During the Rut

The deer rut is a great time to use deer attractants. The most effective deer attractant to use during the rut is doe estrus. You can purchase estrus attractants that are artificial and mimic what a doe in heat smells like or actual estrus taken from a real doe in heat.

Check out our favorite list of whitetail buck lures.

It is important to not use too much estrus attractant while you hunt. Using too much attractant can actually turn off the buck and prevent you from taking one at all.

Use just enough so that when the wind picks up, the buck will smell it. You want the buck to be curious enough so that it comes closer to location.

FAQ – What is Deer Rut

Here are some frequently asked questions about the whitetail deer rut.

What does buck chasing doe mean?

A buck chasing a doe means that the buck is trying to breed with a doe. It might fight other bucks or just wander around looking for one in heat.

What time of day do deer move during the rut?

Deer are most active during what is called the “peak” of the rut. This occurs when there is a lot of does that come into heat at once and bucks do not want to miss an opportunity for breeding.

Do bucks move all day during rut?

A buck spends what is called the “seeking” or “chasing” phase of rut moving around all day looking for does that are in heat.

How do you know when a deer is in rut?

A deer is in rut when its testosterone levels are high and it has a tendency to seek out does. During this time, the deer may become aggressive and territorial.

How long will a buck stay with a doe during rut?

A buck will stay with a doe in estrus until it can successfully breed the doe. After breeding, the buck will leave the doe and look for another one to breed.

How long does the whitetail rut last?

The first rut typically goes from about mid-November to mid-December, while the second rut occurs after what is called “the lull” which is around late December or early January.

What do does do during the rut?

During the rut, does come into what is called estrus. Estrus is what deer are in when they are receptive to breeding.

What does peak rut mean?

The peak rut is what occurs when there are a lot of does that come into estrus at once. Bucks do not want to miss an opportunity for breeding during this time. Peak rut typically occurs in late November or early December in the midwest US.

What does it mean when a deer is in rut?

A deer is called “in rut” when it has a lot of testosterone and tries to breed with does. This is trigger by the smell of estrus from a doe. During this time, the buck may become very aggressive and territorial.

Conclusion – Whitetail Deer Rut

The whitetail deer rut begins when female deer (does) enter estrus and are ready for breeding. The rut is what causes bucks to become more territorial and aggressive during the hunting season.

The first phase of the rut typically starts in November, and it continues until December or even January depending on where you live.

You can hunt anytime during deer season, but most hunters prefer to hunt during the peak rut because there is a lot of deer movement. This time of year is typically your best opportunity for seeing and harvesting a trophy buck.

Make sure you modify your hunting strategy depending on the phase of the rut you are hunting. There are pluses and minuses to hunting during each phase of the rut, and you can be successful anytime during deer season if you use the proper tactics.

Good luck!

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