Bleech: Snow and the Secondary Rut

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than … Continued

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.

Dec. 9: Snow has hit most of the Northeast region, so much that just getting to favorite hunting areas can be difficult to impossible. Deer typically react to winter storms by taking refuge in conifer thickets. These snows have been persistent, but except for relatively brief periods in some locations, not severe enough to interfere with the secondary rut.

Secondary rut is a somewhat confusing term. In reality it is just a continuation of one rut. However, intensity does tend to increase during the first part of December ,which probably gave rise to the term secondary rut.

Let’s talk facts instead of hunters’ notions about the rut. Scientific study on the subject has been done.

Does are in heat about 24 hours. If they are not bred successfully, they will come into heat again in 28 days, hence the secondary rut. Also, younger does tend to breed later. Fawns, if they breed, may come onto heat during December or even January.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission conducted an eight-year study by looking at fetuses in road-killed does. This provided accurate data about when the fawns were conceived. They found that the primary period of deer breeding activity is from November 11 through November 17, peaking on November 14, and that the full moon has nothing to do with the rut.

Remembering my biology classes, there is room for some degree of debate about the influence of the moon on the rut. However, there is little to argue about from the results of studies.

According to the Maine Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the rut is easily predictable because it is based on the phototropic period, that being the length of daylight which is the same from year to year on any given day. The actual physiology of this is that the phototropic period determines the hormones produced by the endocrine system. Breeding may occur in Maine from early October into early January, however the peak of the rut, when most mature does come into heat, is the third week of November.

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, the rut peaks during the first three weeks of November in the northern part of the state, and during the last three weeks of November in the southern part of the state.

If you noticed the peak of the rut in your hunting area, 28 days later there should be a secondary rut of sorts.