The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 28, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: The rut is coming, the rut is coming!

For the Star Beacon

— Every year, bow hunters eagerly anticipate that special time of year that only stick and sting enthusiasts get to enjoy, the rut!

The main rut never comes in during gun season, normal muzzleloader season or even the new early (yuck, what a slaughter, that’s a whole nother article and my unbiased opinion) muzzleloader season.

As an archer you and only you can witness sights, sounds and activities that other hunters only dream of observing. If you’ve ever been out there and observed a buck seeking or chasing a doe and possibly, if you’re real lucky, breeding her then you understand what I mean and what I’ve seen.

If not, hopefully your time will come and it will be and experience you’ll never forget.

What is the rut?

It’s that magical time of the year when the doe come into estrus and are ready to or getting ready to breed. At this time the males, bucks, exhibit a definite type of behavior specific to each stage of the rut, the stages being seeking, chasing and tending. Bucks become more vulnerable during this time than any other time of the hunting season and if you play your calls and scents right you may just be able to score on that big boy you’ve been watching from afar.  

Seeking stage

In this stage, the beginning stage of any rut, it is marked with an increase in buck activity with bucks “seeking” does. Triggered by a chemical indication from doe’s approaching estrus the bucks spend their time looking for doe’s that may be starting the estrous cycle. With the right buck-to-doe ratio in an area during strong seeking activities it can be a good time to be in your tree stand. During this time bucks can be coaxed in with such tactics as calling, rattling, scents and decoys, often perusing the edges of fields, swamps and woodland areas. This is also a good time to check your scrapes and rub lines.

Chasing stage

The chasing stage begins when a buck locates a doe that is nearing peak estrus. Once a buck locates a doe in this stage as he approaches the doe she will run off, not at full tilt as in the seeking stage, but soon slows, stops, and looks back as if to say, “Hey big boy are ya comin’.” Once she does that she’s got him hooked and he won’t seek any other doe. He will continue the chase, intermittently catching up and trying to breed her, a fruitless effort to say the least.

Then the chase will begin again until the doe is finally ready and lets him have his way with her. This is a good time to try doe bleats and estrous calls from your tree stand. Be careful though, keep a watchful eye as several bucks could be cruising the area and answer the call of the wild.  

Tending stage

Once the doe is receptive to her suitor and allows the buck to stay with her the tending stage begins. He will stay with her day and night bedding, eating and following her until she lets him breed her. This only lasts about 24 hours or so and once accomplished the gigolo buck heads off to find another and the cycle begins again. During this period grunting can be effective due to the fact that the tending buck is very protective of his new found love, seeking to drive off any other suitors.  

Be aware

Several determining factors can affect the intensity of the rut in your hunting area, buck to doe ratio being the most significant. In a herd where the ratio is on or close to a 1:1 ratio the seeking and chasing stages can be very intense with strong interaction between bucks in an effort to determine breeding rights. As the ration becomes more slanted towards the doe side of the scale less activity will be seen due to the fact that more receptive doe’s are available.


Effects from the weather play a big part on how the rut will unfold. Anything that affects the amount of daylight affects the rut. Dense clouds shorten daylight and decreases moonlight, rain and snow obstruct sunlight and moonlight by diffraction and diffusion preventing the sunlight from reaching the ground. Depending on the storm and it intensity it can shorten daylight and almost completely block the moonlight from coming through.

Temperatures also play a big part in the rutting factor. Anything above 55 degrees almost certainly shuts down the rutting process and slow deer activity considerably.   

Figuring the phases

Now if you subscribe to the moon theory as I do the first thing you need to do is calculate the second full moon after the autumnal equinox.

This year, 2013, that being on Sept. 19. Thus the second full moon after that being Nov.17.

 This is your starting point. The full moon being the start of the chasing stage you can expect to see seeking activity about 10 days plus or minus a couple days before that. Then 8 to 10 days of the chasing stage and finally 6 or 7 days of the tending stage. After that the buck will need to replenish his body fats and spend about 7 days or so resting up and feeding before starting the cycle again in December.

Prime time  

According to my calculations, here’s what I conclude:

Secondary rut

There will be a secondary rut in December where the bucks will breed doe’s that didn’t get bred during the primary rut.

Although less intense the same principals and date calculations are in order for the secondary rut. Again your starting point is your full moon being on Dec. 17, 2013.   

Secondary dates  

Another rut?

Hypothetically, there could even be a third level of the rut in mid to late January depending on the amount of doe’s that didn’t get bred during the primary and secondary rut’s. Obviously this rut would be much less intense than the prior two but as before you can calculate the date by finding the full moon in January and counting back the days accordingly.

Your choice  

Now, which phase of the rut is the best is a matter of personal choice. Do you want to be out there hangin’ from the trees during the milder seeking stage when the buck can be duped a little easier with the various tools we have in our arsenals, calls both bleats and estrous as well as grunting, mild rattling, growls, hyper’s etc. Scents such as, doe in heat, doe in estrous, just plain ol’ doe or scrape and hot scrape. Buck scent, dominant buck, intruder buck etc, etc, etc. Maybe even throw a decoy out there in various positions both buck and doe.

Or maybe you like the heat of the chasing stage. Hot to trot bucks trying to run down a doe and going hog wild all over the woods. Crashing through the brush like a bulldozer, snorting and wheezing, blowing steam from their nostrils like a hot locomotive. Give them a grunt, rattle or an estrous bleat and the next thing ya know they’re right on top of ya either ready fer love or fixin’ fer a fight!

On the other hand the tending stage sounds good, too. A nice relaxed time, bucks just hangin’ out with their concubine, snoozin’ and a cruzin’, getting a bite to eat every now and then, keepin’ her happy so some other buckaroo doesn’t try to horn in on his territory.

My call

I’m retired and somewhat retarded too, at least when it comes to hunting and doing it during the rut, so I’m going to try and hunt them all. If you can do the same, may the hunting god’s be with you and good luck. And if you score on a big un’ give me a holler. I’d love to here and print the story.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Deer-harvest numbers         

This report is for the first 25 days of the 2013 Deer Archery Season. The percentages are in relationship to the same time frame in the 2012 archery season.  


Buck Fever Night, The Ashtabula County Wildlife Conservation League (ACWCL) in conjunction with Whitetails Unlimited will be hosting their annual “Buck Fever Night” on November 29, 2013 at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds Expo Building in Jefferson.

50 percent of all net proceeds will go directly back to our local area for conservation-related activities. Proceeds from this event will benefit youth programs in cooperation with Ashtabula County Conservation League.

Single non-membership Ttcket cost $25 and include dinner. Purchase your Buck Fever tickets by Nov. 15 and be automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $100 book of gun-raffle tickets!

Table Captain Package includes 10 buck-fever tickets, entry in table captain-only gun drawing, free WTU cap, Seats reserved in your name and Recognition as a special WTU guest.

Raffles, $100 hunters raffle package, 9 gun-board raffle tickets, 30 bucket raffle tickets, WTU gift, WTU 1-year membership.

Purchase a $100 raffle package before Nov. 25 and also receive a bonus gun ticket and a free $50 hunters raffle book (3 gun board raffle tickets 10 bucket raffle tickets). This item is picked up at event, buck fever ticket NOT included.

Become a sponsor, donate $150 in cash or merchandise, and receive our WTU sponsor Browning knife with case and decal, two buck-fever tickets, and entry into a sponsor-only gun drawing! Please call for merchandise sponsorship opportunity.

Membership, purchase a 1-year associate membership for $25, not necessary to purchase to attend event, and is included with $100 hunters package.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call Dale Sunderlin at 466-2223, Tim Starkey at 992-2195 or WTU headquarters, Denny Malloy at (330) 507-9489.

Orwell Gun Club will be having an Oakley & Protection Shoot on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 at its club grounds, located at 8978 Higley Road,  Orwell. The trap range will open at 3 p.m. for practice rounds and shoots start at 5 under the lights. The kitchen will be open for business at 4, with free hot coffee. For more information, call Bob Lewandowski at 281-7351.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at