Hunting Bucks by the Moon (Part II)

Posted on September 27, 2011


As reliable as God, who created the lesser light to rule the night!

“What deer hunter
worth his salt lick hasn’t gazed upon the sky, wondering about
the man in the moon?” – Russell Thornberry

(Editors note: Last
week we looked at how the moon influences the whitetail rut and the four
overlapping stages. Here we continue with some of the suppressors to a rut as
well as, drum roll please, the all important rut dates for autumn 2011.)

Suppressant variables

Several influences can and will suppress deer
activity during daylight hours. Weather and temperature are two of the biggest
contributors that can make or break a frenzied rut. If an extended period of
rain or snow is predominant, breeding activity might occur earlier as dense
clouds shorten day length or be delayed due to the deer’s reluctance to move
under such adverse conditions.

When the temperature rises above 45 degrees,
whitetail activity shuts down. The deer will continue to breed only now it will
transpire entirely under the cloak of darkness when it’s much cooler.

Another factor attributed to curtailed deer activity
during daylight is human pressure. If hunter densities become increased,
whitetails are quick to respond by diverting their movements to nighttime.

If the buck-to-doe ratio becomes greater than 3 does
for every antlered buck, competition amongst rivals is significantly diminished
thus negating the bucks need to search for available does.

Although these influences can hinder the huntsman on
his quest for venison, the sign being left by the resident whitetails proves
conclusively that rutting behavior is indeed taking place.

Natures Timing is Precise

The well-orchestrated autumn rutting events, while
they play a key role, are all pieces necessary to complete the procreation
puzzle for whitetail deer. Remember, it is the female that dictates when
breeding occurs. The doe involuntarily takes her cue from diminished light,
both sun and moon, activating her endocrine system which releases reproductive
chemicals cycling the doe into estrus.

With 70-80 percent of the does conceiving during the
fourteen day breeding window, approximately five to seven days following the
rutting moon, their fawns will arrive during the fourteen darkest nights of the
spring moon. Moon breeding is timed as a natural selection mechanism to insure
survival. Ah, but what about the does that conceived early and those that
didn’t take the first time?

The moon and the whitetail’s estrus cycle are both on
a 28-day period. Therefore, for those does impregnated in October, their fawns
will still be born on the dark side of the moon, only earlier. The same holds
true for the December conception with the fawns dropping a month later, yet
still under a darkened moon phase. Birthing on the dark side of the moon
provides the fawn a brief advantage from predation while in its cryptic stage.

The Significance for the Hunter

 It would seem
that if we were armed with the knowledge beforehand as to when buck activity  will be at its greatest, our decision making
process would become more precise. Hunting weeks could be selected well in
advance, locations to hunt within a certain parcel are now picked based upon
perceived deer behavior, and different methodologies can be instituted to
compensate for the phase these animals are currently in. This cranial
ammunition certainly won’t guarantee you a buck, but it goes a long way
psychologically in preparing and enacting precise decisions during the hunt.

2011 Breeding Dates – As reliable as the moon

With the second full moon appearing on November 10th, this year’s breeding season has all the
ingredients to be a classic rut. I expect to see increased buck activity around
the first of November. The seeking phase will begin about November 5th,
which will set the whole buck population in perpetual motion. On the full moon
bucks will begin chasing any and all does they come in contact with. Because
the female is not quite ready, they will dive into the thickest part of their
home territory and lay low for the next few days. This is the time when bucks
become increasingly intolerant and will fight with any other buck in his path.
Five-to-seven days following the full moon of November 10th, does will begin
ovulating and the breeding process gets underway. For the next fourteen days
bucks will either be in the company of an estrus doe or transitioning to the
next available female. On or about November 28th, bucks will begin entering the
final phase known as the recovery period, a 5-to-7 day time when the male will
ultimately crash from physical exhaustion. They will retreat back to their
sanctuary where they will spend up to 75% of the time bedded in an effort to



Although nothing is foolproof when it comes to
whitetails, and given the fact that this is not an exact science nor can it be,
there has been far too much evidence pointing me towards the beliefs I now hold
for the whitetails all-important breeding season. I’m quite sure there will be
more pieces added to an already complex puzzle as the years unfold, but that’s
what keeps my interest alive as I thirst to try an understand this fascinating
animal. In the process, hunter’s, such as yourself become the beneficiary of
what is brought back from my wanderings amongst the white-tailed deer, – and
that my friends is where my ultimate gratification comes.

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier.

© 2011 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

Posted in: Whitetail Deer