By Mark Kenyon
Here we are again, just on the precipice of the 2012 whitetail season but already looking ahead to the deer hunter’s most anticipated time period – The Rut. It’s our favorite time of year, and a period each fall that finds us waking up increasingly longer before daylight, spending double digit hours in a tree, and often times forsaking friends, family and all other activities in order to focus every ounce of our abilities on killing a rutting buck.
With that being said, as hunters, it has also become tradition to debate, hypothesize and pontificate about the timing and intensity of each years upcoming ruts. 2012 will surely be no different and we’re here today to pull the trigger on the starter’s pistol for this debate. As many of you know, each year Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine releases a rut prediction based on the studies and findings of Charles Alsheimer. Today, we’ll share what that analysis predicts for this fall!
First though, a very brief primer on how Alsheimer comes to these predictions. Alsheimer and and wildlife biologist Wayne Laroche have been studying the timing of the rut for 15 years now and they’ve found that it seems the key factor in kicking the rut into gear is the occurrence of the second full moon after the Autumn Equinox. According to the this theory, once this moon (which they call the “Rutting Moon”) hits, most doe’s estrus cycles kick into gear and the peak of the rut follows shortly.
Now that we have a base understanding of what we’re getting into, here are the 2012 rut predictions according to Charles Alsheimer and Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine.
While I still haven’t decided whether I’m fully bought into this predicting method, I can’t help but get excited when I hear about what is expected for this year’s rut. According to Alsheimer, “Unlike last year when the rutting moon causes the rut’s breeding phase to hit after the 12th of November, this year’s rut should be much more intense and as close to a synchronized rut as there is.” A synchronized rut, as defined later in this D&DH article is one that sees the “Rutting Moon” coincide with the natural peak of sperm and estrogren levels in deer around November 1. When the moon occurs around this date range, we see the stars align for the most intense rut possible.
The “Rutting Moon” this year falls on October 29th, and it is noted that this should be considered the “starting point” for the rut to ramp up. Four to five days before this date though, Alsheimer predicts an increase in activity and the “Seeking Phase” will begin. This period will be followed by the start of the “Chasing Phase” which should be kicking into gear sometime around November 2nd. This most intense period of chasing, scraping, etc should continue on for several days until the actual breeding begins. This is predicted to occur sometime in that second to third week of November, sometime between November 8th and 16th. As we all know, the peak of breeding can be a slower period and is sometimes referred to as “the lockdown”, as bucks get locked on to a single doe in estrus and remain hidden in thick cover. After this point, the rut will wind down and before you know it we’ll be talking about late season hunting and the “second rut”.
So what does this mean for us? Well first, if these predictions hold true, we should be in for a shorter but more pronounced period of rutting activity. Additionally, we’ll most likely see obvious rutting behavior a little earlier than we may have the last few years. 2010 was an especially slow and erratic rut, referred to as a “trickle rut”, and while last year was a little better, the idea of a very intense and maybe earlier rut is certainly an appealing thought.
With the “seeking phase” predicted to begin in late October, it might mean that “rut vacations” should begin sooner than normal. If you live and breathe by these rut predictions, it might make sense to focus your efforts on late October and early November, versus the traditional first two weeks of November. My planned vacation is November 3rd through the 18th, but there could be a case made to instead move my time table forward, and hunt October 27 – November 11.
That being said though, I think I’m probably too much a man of tradition, to forsake the first two weeks of November in favor of an altered schedule. While I do find the Alsheimer predictions intriguing, I’ve yet to get to the point where I’m willing to fully depend on them. None-the-less, I do hope that there is some truth to this year’s prediction, as I’d love to see a particularly intense and synchronized rut. Regardless, it’s coming up quick and it’s sure to be a great time to be in the treestand. I can’t wait!
So what say you? Are you a believer in the Alsheimer rut predictions? If so, will this year’s analysis make you change your hunting plans?
– Mark Kenyon
(Interested in learning more about the rut, visit Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine’s rut section to see books, online courses, and more.)
UPDATE 10/5/12: Want more 2012 rut predictions and theories? Click the link below to check out our latest 2012 rut article, featuring predictions and insights from Bill Winke, Mark Drury, Mike Hanback, Lindsay Thomas Jr and Gordon Whittington!
UPDATE 10/11/12: We also now have rut predictions from Field & Stream. Check out Field & Stream’s 2012 Best Days of the Rut !