Bleech: Seeing Red (Antlers)
Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than...
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.
More from the scientific side, but first a couple of reports from the field.
Our roving rut watcher, Dave Baker, an over-the-road trucker, called from southern Ohio to tell of a buck following a doe. But it almost certainly was not related directly to the rut. Both were about the same size, siblings probably. The buck had modest antlers, and neither he nor she were making any rutting gestures.
Baker noted that while making a loop through the Mid-Atlantic states he saw mostly does and fawns, and just a few small bucks. This is in line with other parts of our region, with the big bucks making themselves scarce.
Note the photo from a trail cam set by Mike Stimmell on the Pennsylvania big woods. See how red the antlers are, a pretty good indication that the velvet was shed very recently. Another photo on the same trail cam showed a buck still in the velvet. We should start to see rubs any time now. You may have already seen some. Fighting will get underway very soon, though not in full swing until all of the bucks have shed velvet, and the bucks have tested their antlers in trees or brush. Hunters are very fortunate to ever witness a real, dragged-out buck battle, so we can not rely as much on sightings with this activity. Mostly we just see half-hearted tickling of antler tips.
Back to science, several states do research on the rut. Here is a sampling of rut dates in our region. Hopefully this will help you plan your hunts.
In my home state of Pennsylvania, the Game Commission lists the rut period as September through January, with the peak of the rut being the first two weeks of November. That goes pretty much in accordance with what you have probably read about the rut. But is it in fact the same in other parts of our Northeast Region?
Not according to the Connecticut Wildlife Division. Their timetable for the rut period is similar, from late October through early January. The peak of their rut, however, is said to be the last two weeks of November. That starting date of late October is not as far off the September start in Pennsylvania since that is given only to include freak breeding late that month.
To fill out the month in case you can hunt every day of November, the New York Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, sets the peak of their rut at mid-November. The entire time frame is October to January.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources pegs the rut peak for the first three weeks of November.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources sets it for the first three weeks of November, however, conversations with regional wildlife managers indicate that it can vary by a week from north to south.
It is during that peak of the rut when most hunters try to be afield.
That is a pretty good representative sample, geographically, of our region. It should give you a better idea of rut timing. But there is more. I will wait, though, before dropping a rut bombshell that will rattle many deer hunters. It set me back on my haunches a while to digest it.