Southern States and the Variation of Peak Whitetail Rut Dates
The rut of the southern whitetail deer is one of the most fascinating breeding phenomena in the wild. Every year, bucks take part in a mating ritual to locate and mate with does. This ritual, known as the rut, varies from region to region and can be quite different between these different areas. In this article, we will explore some of the variations in the southern whitetail deer rut and why they differ. We will also discuss how these variations may affect hunting opportunities across different regions.
Each year, deer populations experience two distinct but related periods: the rut, when bucks and does come together to mate, and the falling fawn survival period through the winter. During these two periods, deer populations face a number of challenges that can affect their overall health and well-being. Obtaining food and predator avoidance are two very important issues. In the northern part of the U.S., this has caused deer to use a very narrow window for the main rut. If fawns are born too late, they will not survive the rigors of the winter. Yes, does that are unbred will go back into estrus again, but survival rate for fawns born of such does do have a reduced survival rate, especially during rougher winters. This means any deer that may evolve to have other rut dates likely will not pass on their genes due to this poor winter survival rate.
In the southern states, winter survival is not such an uncertainty. With less or nonexistent snowfall and more abundant food sources and less stress, the narrow rut period becomes less important. Fawns won’t get caught in deep snows while attempting to escape predators. Original deer populations often naturally rutted later to escape heat in the early fall. Compared to the north, later original rut dates were fine, and females that were unbred the first time had a much higher fawn survival of these second breedings.
This does not, however, explain the myriad number of rut dates, ranging from October to February. How did all of these variations occur across the southern United States? The best explanation is that it has developed due to the restocking efforts that began in the 1920’s and continued through the middle of the 20th century. Deer were brought to these states from others, including those in the north. Since rut timing is an inherited trait, these deer brought those genes and the new timings to the south. Since the timing of whitetail breeding also appears to be a multigenic trait, the interbreeding of these two populations of deer caused those dates to vary even more, splintering off new rut timing in a localized manner. This is the best explanation of how we got all the crazy rut timings in states like Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and more.
More than just a curiosity, the multiple rut dates do offer a lot of opportunity for the southern deer hunter. With a minimum of travel, they can take advantage of these extended hunting opportunities. Big bucks are easier to fool during the rut than at any other time. By putting out great quality synthetic rut scents, you can give yourself even more of an advantage. This can create really exciting action for the hunter. When finished hunting the rut period in one location, hunters can pack up and move to perhaps even the next county and experience the excitement of rut hunting again.
Southern state ruts can be confusing in their timing, but they are worth the effort to learn. Check out these maps to take advantage of them.
Alabama Rut Map
Arkansas Whitetail Rut
Georgia Rut Map
Louisiana Rut Map
Mississippi Rut Map