As September rolls around, many deer hunters have already begun getting their leases in order: Scheduling work weekends, cleaning up shooting lanes, prepping stands, tending to food plots and filling up feeders to make sure they’re ready to go.
All that sweat equity takes place in the hopes of perhaps dropping a first-ever buck, or maybe that giant wall-hanger you’ve been keeping an eye on for a couple of years.
Maybe you hunt just to put meat in the freezer. Whatever the case, the rut is when you have a great chance of making it happen.
Wary bucks that move almost like ghosts let their guard down for several weeks each fall to breed, and having a grasp on the stages of the rut in your particular area of the state is key.
Dave Moreland, who retired from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as the Deer Study Leader, prepares an annual Rut Report that’s featured every fall in Louisiana Sportsman magazine. This year, his full report will be highlighted in the October issue.
“This year you might see a little earlier activity,” Moreland said. “So rather than waiting for the traditional dates, you might want to hunt the two weeks prior to that because you might see some activity. Don’t just wait strictly until the exact date because if you wait, you might miss out.
“One of the best times to hunt is that first scraping period, when those bucks start working their scrapes and the first does start cycling. You want to catch that, because that’s when you really see good deer movement.”
Moreland’s full report next month features dates for the pre-rut, first scraping period, first breeding period, second scraping period and second breeding period for every area in the state.
His years both as a LDWF biologist and hunter of whitetails in Louisiana give him a unique perspective in plotting out the rut calendar.
“It’s based on breeding dates we have determined over time, and it’s also based on the idea of what I have observed,” Moreland said. “The initial scraping activity always begins between the new moon and the full moon. I’ve never seen it begin between the full moon and the new moon.
“Using that as a starting point is how I determine the pre-rut …. A lot of biologists will tell you the moon phase has nothing to do with breeding, which I think is not correct.”
It also won’t hurt if Mother Nature cooperates with a little bit of real winter this year. Cold weather is always a good thing, Moreland said.
“A cold front doesn’t really kick the rut off, but it helps the movement activity you normally want to see. In the fall, the deer lose their summer coat and get their winter coat, and if you have 80- and 90-degree temperatures, they’re very uncomfortable moving around and just lay up in the shad trying to stay cool,” Moreland said. “But if you get that colder weather, they need to burn energy to create heat and stay warm, and they need to feed more, so it influences their activity.”
Be sure to pick up a copy of October’s Louisiana Sportsman to get the detailed rut report featuring specific dates for your area. But Moreland’s message to all hunters is to err on being in your stand and ready just a little earlier this year.
“Don’t forgo and say, ‘Im waiting for the traditional breeding dates,’” Moreland said. “Go ahead and hunt then. You might see some good activity.”