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Whitetail Deer: Into the Mind of a Rutting Buck

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Whitetail Deer: Into the Mind of a Rutting Buck

Hunters have long assumed that it was simply sex drive that motivated deer in November, but a new wave of GPS-collar research shows us that rut behaviors are far more complicated than we originally thought

Trouble is, as deer hunters, we haven’t always based our understanding of the whitetail rut on science so much as on assumptions. But thanks to the work of researchers and technology, we now know these nine truths about the rut, which offer a glimpse into what bucks might be thinking during deer hunting’s best time of year.

1. Rut Range: There’s No Place Like Home

What Science Says
It would seem that bucks—especially older ones—have a thing for Dorothy’s mantra.

“For a long time, hunters really believed that bucks were running wild during the rut and that they pretty much abandoned their home range to find does,” says Kip Adams, director of education and outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). “We now know that’s just
not true.”

2. Lunar Phase: Don’t Blame It on the Moon

What Science Says
Had Carl Sagan been an outdoors writer, he’d likely write about the moon and its impact on the rut. After all, there has to be some sort of correlation, right? Not so much.

“There is very clear, very accepted scientific data regarding the impact of moon phase on the timing of the rut,” says Woods. “I was part of a group of 14 scientists collecting conception dates from does. We backdated the date of conception based on date of birth. It was a very large sample size, thousands of deer from several different regions.

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