Alsheimer: Hunting Tips for the Breeding Phase of the Rut

Charles J. Alsheimer on Deer & Deer Hunting

Deer activity can be pretty quiet as does come into estrus and pair up with bucks for up to 72 hours. (photo copyright Charles J. Alsheimer)

Whether you call it the breeding phase or lockdown time, now is one tough period to hunt bucks in the North.

In last week’s blog post I illustrated the chasing action that precedes peak-breeding. Though breeding can take place throughout the month of November in the North, the 20 days that follow the full moon are when the bulk of it is done. The lunar research that Vermont whitetail biologists and I have been doing for over 15 years has revealed that nearly 80 percent of the does are bred during this three-week period. So, with the full moon arriving on Nov. 17 this year it is safe to say that breeding is now full-blown in the North.

Charles J. Alsheimer on Deer & Deer Hunting

After breeding a doe, a buck will be on his feet in search of the next one to cycle into estrus. Keeping vigil on doe travel corridors, and bedding and feeding areas can still produce during this phase of the rut. (photo copyright Charles J. Alsheimer)

Because does move very little when they come into estrus, deer sightings can come to a screeching halt. During this time a doe will smell “right” for up to 72 hours, causing one or more bucks to hang close in hopes of getting in on the breeding. During the 24 hours that a doe is in estrus she may be bred 10 or more times, and by multiple bucks. Fight-to-the-death fights can occur when more than one buck competes for a hot doe’s breeding rights. Once the doe cycles out of estrus the dominant buck will move on to find another doe to breed.

Watch this D&DH TV clip and learn some of the reasons for decreased deer activity. 


When breeding has begun wise hunters focus on doe groups because that is where the action will be. Even though the hunting can be frustratingly quiet during this phase of the rut, patience is truly a virtue as bucks in search of the last hot does may appear throughout the day.

– Charlie


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