Editor’s Note: If you understand what causes the rut, when the rut occurs, and what bucks do during the rut, you can increase your odds for bagging a mature whitetail each season. Of course, all across the U.S., rutting times are different. As many myths exist about the whitetails’ mating season as there are proven scientific facts. To determine what the rut means to the deer hunter and how to hunt the rut more effectively, let’s ask wildlife scientists.
“Deer of both sexes and all ages leave a wide variety and a large amount of information for other deer in their geographical location at scrapes, although many people believe only dominant bucks in an area utilize these signposting regions,” Dr. Keith Causey, retired professor of wildlife science at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, says.
For many years, hunters believed only the dominant buck urinated in the pawed-up earth of a scrape. But according to Causey, subordinate bucks and even does urinate in this pawed-up area and leave information for other deer that will pass by the scrape. “A subordinate buck often will sneak into a scrape and mark that scrape with his urine, feces, pre-orbital gland or frontal glands, if he believes he can mark it without a dominant buck attacking him,” Causey explains.
“Some of the information biologists believe deer obtain from a scrape includes:
* “which deer come to the scrape,
* “how much time has passed since a certain deer has visited the scrape,
* “how the deer ranks in the pecking order of the herd,
* “what kind of mood the deer is in,
* “which females have come to the scrape,
* “what status those females have in the herd,
* “whether or not the female will go into heat soon,
* “whether the female is already in heat and
* “whether the female is going out of heat.”
“Trophy bucks have regular rounds they make – just like the policeman who walks a beat,” Dr. Karl Miller, a research scientist at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab near Athens, Georgia, emphasizes. “During the rut, the buck will make scrapes all along this route. He may have some fresh scrapes, and there may be old scrapes too, which indicate that he’s been using this particular itinerary for several weeks. By taking a stand along this route during the rut, the trophy may be easy to bag.
“Another key that makes trophy buck hunting easy is that most often trophy deer will scrape in the same region year after year. When a dominant buck is harvested, the next deer in the pecking order that moves up to become the dominant buck often will scrape in the same spots and meet his does at the same sites as the dominant buck before him did. That’s why if you’re hunting in a region with older-age-class deer, many times you can take trophy bucks out of the same stand along the same scrape line for several consecutive years.”
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