The Northern Whitetail Rut: Where We Stand


Rut prediction analysis and hunting tips for the remainder of the season.

By Charles Alsheimer


Charles Alsheimer killed this great buck on Nov. 17 as it “dog-trotted” two does around a food plot.

I received an email two nights ago from Wayne Laroche (he’s hunting in northern Maine) asking for my assessment of this year’s rut — specifically he wanted to know if I thought the majority of the breeding was over.  So, here goes:

For starters, all of my research does (6) were done breeding on Nov. 17.  The first one bred on Nov. 1 and the last two on Nov. 17, with the peak-breeding Nov. 14.

As far as the wild herd around my farm, I killed a nice buck on Nov. 17 as it “dog trotted” two does around one of our food plots.  I might add that neither doe left the plot and the buck did not aggressively pursue either doe, (Also, there was a 2-1/2 year-old buck in the plot at the time and he paid no attention to what was going on) an indication that both does had been bred, and out of estrus for some time.

Thus, I believe from my camera data, our enclosure does breeding dates, what I’m seeing in the wild, and data shared with me from across North America (by many of you) that 90 percent of the breeding was over by this past weekend (Nov. 18) which is a full week earlier than last year, when the full moon hit on Nov. 10.

As many of you know, this is exactly as Wayne and I predicted it would take place in the data we provided for the 2012 Deer & Deer Hunting calendar, and in my Lunar Rut predictions for the September issue of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine.


A quote I received the other day from Dr. Dave Samuel (one of the most respected deer biologists in North America) pretty much sums up this year: “You nailed it this year my friend.”

What can we expect moving forward?

As of right now you will be seeing does back on prime food sources, without fear of being mugged by a buck, yearling bucks wandering around aimlessly, and mature bucks hitting food hard in an attempt to put on weight they lost (mostly at night).

Hit the food sources if you want to kill a buck.  Also, in short order, the best time of the day to hunt a food source will be midday and the last two hours of daylight (for stand hunters).  Deer need to eat every 4 to 5 hours and most mature bucks are bedding just before dawn — thus they need to hit food by midday, then bed until an hour or so before dark, before feeding again.

Also, most mature bucks are now very exhausted from the rut.  Yesterday, when I caped and skinned my buck there was zero fat on him (he dressed 185 pounds, which means his pre-rut weight was about 220 pounds), so he had been running and breeding hard since the full moon hit on Oct. 29.

To recap, it is important to repeat that what Wayne Laroche and I have now been doing for 15+ years is not rocket science. Though it will never be 100 percent accurate (nothing is), it is now easy to figure out when the northern rut will kick in and go hot-to-trot.

For science to be science, it needs to be observable and repeatable and as a result of these 15 years of data collection we now have the repeatable lunar cycles, and more than overwhelmed with observable data — to the point that we are now be able to predict how the northern whitetail rut will play out —again, this isn’t rocket science.  That said, next year will be very similar to 1999, 2002, 2010. These are all years when the second full moon after the autumn equinox fell on or slightly after Oct. 21.

This kind of year (2013) takes a heavy toll on bucks (especially mature bucks) because they’ll run themselves ragged for over a month as they search for does that can enter estrus over a month long period.

As I’ve said for many years now, thanks to all of you — from Maine to Saskatchewan — I appreciate your rutting insight and the data.  Wayne and I could not have done this without your help.


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4 thoughts on “The Northern Whitetail Rut: Where We Stand

  1. unkleboo

    I highly doubt you shot a mature buck on November 19 using an ester call followed by tendon grunts. That only works in mid September. And how come you Mainers always speak of your deer in weight? Do you do that with moose too?

  2. drens76

    This is ridiculous! Enough is enough! This guy always sees what he wants to see! It’s totally gone to his head at this point! Deer are going to breed around the same time EVERY YEAR! My gosh, keep the moon out of it!

  3. 1ojolsen

    I shot a mature buck in the mid coast Maine region (213 lbs field dressed) on Nov. 19th. He responded aggressively to an estrus call followed up by tending gunts. One of my hunting pals sent me pics (Maine also) of a series of freshened sceapes just yesterday, the 22nd.

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