The rut is a mystery, an enigma, a puzzle. It’s a mystery though that everyone wants to crack. Why does the rut start? When does the rut start? Where will the rut be kicking off first? What days should I take off work? These questions and more fill our heads and flood the internet every year as excited hunters search for the answers. As many of us have come to find out though, there isn’t really one definitive answer to any of these queries. Countless experts, studies, and theories have come to various conclusions on the rut – and rarely do they ever come to the same conclusion.

That’s why today we wanted to share with you a variety of different “rut theories” and predictions for 2012 from some of the top whitetail experts in all of America. Bill Winke. Mark Drury. Lindsay Thomas Jr. Gordon Whittington. Mike Hanback. Charles Alsheimer. Check out the thoughts and theories that each of these whitetail gurus has on the rut, examine the differences in approach, compare it to your own observations and then decide which you find most applicable to your scenario. There’s plenty we can learn from examining each of these experts’ theories on the rut and the differences between each – but in the end, maybe the one thing we can all agree on is that the intricacies of the rut certainly are still a mystery!

 Gordon Whittington – Editor In Chief of North American Whitetail

“I suppose all of us have tried to use our own observations and experience to figure out when the rut is going to break loose in an area. But I’m the first to admit it’s really hard to do. No doubt we see more daytime buck movement some years than others, and the timing of it clearly varies somewhat. But it’s hard for me to say that’s directly correlated to breeding. I’ve seen little evidence that fawning dates vary widely from year to year, but no doubt the amount of chasing and tending behavior observed varies in both timing and intensity. I really don’t think it’s as simple as saying it’s controlled by the moon or weather. To me, it basically appears to be controlled by daylength.” – Gordon Whittington

Lindsay Thomas Jr – QDMA Director of Communications and Editor of Quality Whitetails

“The science on this is decisive. A significant number of scientific, peer-reviewed studies have shown the timing of the rut in any particular location is triggered by photoperiod, or day length… not by the moon, or temperature, or anything else. However, different deer populations obviously have different built-in triggering points, for a variety of reasons. Where I hunt on my family’s land in Southeast Georgia, the peak of breeding takes place in late October. It’s actually earlier in October on the Georgia coastal islands, and later as you go inland. In most of North Georgia, it’s early to mid-November. And in Southwest Georgia it’s even later in December.

I think hunters often confuse visible rut behaviors, like chasing and grunting, with the peak of breeding. When you document breeding dates in a location, they actually change very little year to year, even though the dates of peak rut behaviors might vary. That’s because weather, moon phase and food sources – things that fluctuate widely year to year – affect deer movement patterns. But even when the weather reduces deer movement, you find that breeding still takes place the same time it normally does. If a doe is coming into estrous, a warm front isn’t going to change that. So, my anticipated “peak rutting activity” dates are the same every year: Late October where I hunt in Southeast Georgia. I know that unfortunate weather patterns may suppress deer movement during that ideal time, but the deer will still be breeding, so I’m going to do all I can to be in the woods just before and during this period. It’s when good hunting conditions align with that peak of does coming into estrous that we get those really memorable, exciting days in the woods.” – Lindsay Thomas Jr
Bill Winke – Creator of and Host of Muddy’s Midwest Whitetail TV
“I have not seen a rut predictor that was actually more accurate than the calendar.  The rut is triggered by photoperiod – the amount of sunlight (number of hours) in each day.  As the season progresses, that triggers the rut at pretty much the same time every year.  You may see more behavior on certain days than others related to weather or hunting pressure, but the actual conception dates of the does are pretty consistent from year to year.  Missouri recently did a study back-dating fetuses from late season harvested does and they proved that over a three year period the peak breeding date (the date when the most does were in estrous) was November 15 plus or minus one day.  I always like to hunt during the week that starts ten days before the peak.  In this case November 5 – 12.  It is tough to beat that time frame. ” – Bill Winke
Mike Hanback – Host of Big Deer TV , and Mark Drury – Drury Outdoors

Mike Hanback and Mark Drury recently shared their views and predictions for the rut in a short post on Mike’s blog Mike Hanback’s Big Deer. In that article, Mike explained…

“Based on the full moon October 29, we predict good to great deer movement October 24 to November 4. This is one of our favorite windows to hunt any year. This year the full moon will kick bucks into scraping and prowling in late October, and as it wanes, bucks should seek does hard those first days of November, which “will be the best week to grunt and rattle,” says Mark. If you have the flexibility during this 12-day window, watch the weather and be sure to hunt the 2-3crisp, high-pressure days after a dry or wet cold front moves through. Bucks should really move.

Over the years, there have been more record-book bucks shot November 8-12 than any other days; that week will be great again in 2012. With the moon moving toward dark on the 13th, expect to see the most bucks at dawn/dusk, though a stud on the prowl for a hot doe might come through at 11:00 am. Sit all day.

Most biologists say deer movements/sightings and rutting activity fluctuate with the weather, acorn crops, pressure, etc., but actual breeding dates are amazingly consistent from year to year in any given location, regardless of moon phase. I agree with that—if your peak breeding (lockdown) has always been around November 15, it will be close to that again. BUT, both Mark and I are more adamant than ever that bucks move more and harder during a “rut full moon” than during the darker phases. That’s way we think giants will fall Halloween week.”

Charles Alsheimer – Whitetail Photographer and Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine contributor, and Wayne Laroche – wildlife biologist

Lastly, are the infamous predictions from Charles Alsheimer and Wayne Laroche which are published by Deer & Deer Hunting each year, and seem to garner wide ranging interest. These predictions are based off of the occurence of the “rutting moon”. This year, Alsheimer wrote …

“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.”

To see the full prediction from Alsheimer and learn more about this theory, visit our full article on the Deer & Deer Hunting predictions by following this link…


Interested in more rut predictions? Check out Field & Stream’s 2012 Best Days of the Rut