Bleech: Rut Peaks, First and Otherwise

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.

This week you will find me hoping that the long awaited rut peak in northern Maine has finally gotten into full swing. Actually, I have a hard time reasoning that it actually is not finished. In areas like that, where deer densities are very low things can pass by unnoticed. This is a very clear example of the reason we should not be too sure of anything. Even where deer are considerably more numerous, things can go unseen, even if we are watching for things to happen.

Throughout most of the Northeast Region the peak of the rut has passed a couple weeks ago, but since then many hunters have reported seeing more breeding activity than usual. It was not such a distinct rut peak in many places.

Now we are nearing the second rut peak (maybe even calling it a "peak" is stretching things a bit). This is not going to be as intense as the first rut peak. One of the main reasons behind this second rut peak is that does born the previous spring can not start breeding until they reach a certain weight. This weight probably varies from area to area. Once young does reach this weight they might come into heat.

For those hunters who like to know the details, the Pennsylvania Game Commission determined through several years of study that yearling does can come into heat when they reach a weight of 80 pounds to 90 pounds. The percentage of yearling does which are bred varies considerably from one area to another. Most of those yearlings that get impregnated will have just one fawn.

Another thing which contributes to a second rut peak is that some does were not bred the first time they were in heat. Maybe it just did not take. Maybe no bucks found them in time.

In the unlikely event that does fail to be impregnated in the second rut peak they may come into heat again in January or late December. They have been known to come into heat as late as February.

This is of concern to hunters because our hunting tactics should be adjusted accordingly. If you like to use "doe-in-heat" or estrous scents, it is time to use them again, if you even ceased using them once the first peak was past. I have had some success using my bleat-then-grunt call method.

The biggest buck I have ever had within range took place during the second rut peak in a very unlikely place--Allegheny State Park, in southwestern New York. That big woods area is not noted for huge bucks, but that was a huge buck. To my great dismay, my muzzleloader, which I have not used since, failed to fire due to a very tiny nick in the threading of the primer holder. I will get off that subject now before I get teardrops in my keyboard, and wish all of you good hunting. I should be in the north Maine woods sometime today.