Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on August 13, 2019



August Column



Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future “Ask The Deer Tracker” posts can e-mail it to,

Q. – I was in the woods on Friday, May 8th of this year and saw brand new fawns in two separate areas. It appeared they had been born that morning. That would mean that the does must have been bred in October. This seemed early to me. Do you have an explanation for this?
J. K. – Wolcott, VT

A. – Indeed, it would seem premature to find fawns being birthed this early, however, certainly not out of the question. The first thing to consider is the fact that these two fawns could have been birthed prematurely, not carried to full term. It happens quite often with human mothers so therefore it more than likely transpires within the animal kingdom as well. Although I have used 198 days as my average gestation period for birthing does, that is not to imply that whitetails can’t or won’t birth in more or less days from the time of conception.



The second point is that we had a very early rut last year with the breeding phase beginning about November 1st. Throughout my moon/phase study, I have noted that only 70% of the adult doe population will breed during the 14-day breeding cycle. This would then leave approximately 30% of the breedable doe population to be bred either before or after that 14-day time frame. Both of these does could well have been bred during the latter part of October while the bucks were in either the seeking and/or chasing phase.

A third option, which would be a complete conjecture on my part, is that it is due to winter stress. It was a harsh winter, the two mothers birthed their fawns early – which in reality brings us back to them being premature. Having fawns birthed this early in the spring is not typical here in the Northeast due in large part to the very uncertainty that early spring weather can bring. However, if I have learned anything about whitetails it is that they can defy any logic.


Q. – I have followed your rut predictions for years now and am planning my hunting trip for this fall. Could you tell me when the rut will transpire and what exactly I can expect regarding the intensity of this year’s rut?
C. W. – Jersey Shore, PA

A. – As you are aware, last years rut was very early and melodramatic. It was what would best be described as a ‘trickle rut.’ This year’s rut will be just the opposite. Understand, the whitetail rut is a marathon that includes four distinct phases. Based upon your hunting methodology, and preferences will dictate which phases you will choose to hunt. For me, because I hunt where deer densities are quite low, I prefer the time when a buck is going to be most active, on his feet and making tracks.



Each of the four phases of the rut are separate stages that overlap each other. The initial stage that sets things in motion is the seeking phase. This is when the bucks begin to seek out does. This phase lasts approximately five days. The second stage is the chasing phase, which also lasts approximately five days. Next comes the all-important breeding stage where 70% of the adult doe population will be bred during its 14-day duration. The final stage is called the recovery phase where the buck population crashes. Depending on how stressed the males are will dictate the length of their recovery. Usually this phase lasts between three-to-five days.



This fall, 2019, we have a November 12th second full moon. Because it comes at the middle of the month, breeding will begin much closer to the 12th. The seeking stage will begin about November 7th. Chasing will start on the 12th with breeding coming between the 15th and 18th of November. By November 30th, the recovery stage will begin. Providing we have temperatures relevant to this time of year, I expect to see an intense rut with lots of build-up.


Q. – The accounts of your hunting prowess with both a camera and a rifle are astounding. It mystifies me as to how someone has the ability to walk up onto a living, breathing whitetail and yet, remain undetected. I have not been able to accomplish this. How is it that you are able to do this?
B.K. – Troy, NY



A. – Let me assure you, it is not without great effort and years of experience. And as often as I’m able to accomplish this feat, there are many failed attempts. I use everything within my surroundings to my advantage. I ensure that the wind is always favorable to me. When I step, I make the least amount of noise possible, and when it is impossible not to make noise, the commotion I make sounds like that of a deer. Let me make this very clear: a whitetail hears just about everything within earshot; it is only his curiosity and inability to detect danger that allows one to get within shooting distance.


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