Bleech: What We Learned About the 2011 Rut

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.

The 2011 whitetail rut has been very interesting. I was about to write that it has been unusual, but maybe a better way to describe it is that the rut has been very average because it was unusual.

What made the current rut unusual?

Looking at the total picture to date, the second rut peak has been more distinct than the first, or at least it has been where I have hunted during the past couple of weeks in the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania and in northern Maine.

Earlier, the differences between the different parts of our region were not so great. Now the differences are more distinct. I expect that in southern Ohio a second peak may be just getting underway.

A second rut peak is coming in, according to Matt Rosenthal at Beaver Creek Fly Shop, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Some big bucks are being killed. But it is nothing like it was during the first rut peak about four weeks ago. Then, he called it "insane." Now some bucks have been observed chasing does. Some fresh scrapes have been seen, but no rubs. No fighting has been reported.

That falls into place nicely. Just as happened with the first rut peak, it is starting in Maryland when it is well underway, or even winding down, in the bulk of the Northeast Region.

In the New England states, the best of the rut is over, according to Marty Harrington, at Marty's Sports in Bennington, Vermont. Some of the younger does are coming into heat. More noticeably, deer are beginning to bunch up, he said. There are no fresh rubs or scrapes. Up in the Adirondacks, hunters found fresh rubs and scrapes late last week, according to Dan Ladd's exceptional web site, www.ADKHunter.com.
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How does this fit into our rut timetable?**

Very likely it was at least partly related to weather. Bucks got more active once temperatures finally dropped and the ground was covered by snow. Of course that has nothing to do with does coming into heat, but it sure affects buck hunting.

The results of the Pennsylvania Game Commission study showed that the moon has no influence on the timing of the rut. I still think it influences the time of the day when deer move, but that is a different thing than breeding.

While this is the final rut report for the 2011 season, the rut certainly is not done for the year. Right now in parts of our Northeast Region a strong second rut peak is in progress. And the rut will go on into January, at least. The potential length of the rut in our region is September to February, but breeding in either September or February is very unusual.

I have never heard about does being impregnated during February, not in this part of the whitetail range. Though the reports are concluding, I will be following the rut until it truly ends. I suggest that you do the same, especially if there is a late hunting season where you hunt deer. Late seasons are great because hardly any hunters are afield. I still have tags for late archery and flintlock hunting season.

P.S.: Just got a doe, a nice, mature doe, and that is meat in the freezer. Have a great winter. Get your augers sharpened.