Outdoors columnist Oak Duke offers rut prediction

Thoughts of deer hunting are not usually the first thing on our minds as we observe winter finally letting go of its icy grip on the Northeastern and Midwestern woodlands.

But as a heads-up, deer hunters should plan on the upcoming whitetail breeding cycle to peak around Veteran’s Day this year.

This prognostication of the upcoming whitetail rut is one of those, good news-bad news forecasts, especially for New York state hunters.

Archers are going to experience a traditional hot rut peaking around Veteran’s Day this year.

Finally.

The last two ruts, 2017 and 2018, each rolled out a two-pronged tableau, first the apparent flurry, charged up and early peaking around Halloween that quickly dissipated like a ghost. Late November and early December followed with a solid secondary peak of breeding.

We know that in each deer season three high points of breeding surface to a greater or lesser degree.

First an early, then a middle, and finally a late rut peak shows itself with the typical fanfare of scraping, chasing, and bucks hooking up with does. Each burst of breeding activity is 26 or so days apart as each time a segment of does come into estrus to fuel the excitement.

But on other years we witness a smoking hot rut, one not so diffused into the other two peaks.

Sure, each year is different from the previous and the next. Just the way it is. But there is a pattern.

From my records, the hottest and best apparent rut occurs when the moon is full during the second week of November. And this year it is full Nov. 12. Yeah!

Last season (2018) the whitetail websites were full of hunters bemoaning the lack of signs of the rut. Most missed it. It’s a bummer, but these watered down ruts occur when about a third of the does cycle at each of the three high points. These wimpy ruts have been accurately termed “trickle ruts.”

But this year the majority of the breeding age does should push through the turnstiles under our treestands as if it was Black Friday at the front door of Wal-Mart.

That’s the good news.

But the flipside for those of us who hunt in the Southern Zone of New York state is that we will face a very short window. Blame it on the calendar.

This year, around Veteran’s Day, the Full Moon lands on the 12th of November. But opening day of the regular season in the Southern Zone is only four days later, on Saturday, Nov. 16, a very early opener this year.

So bow hunters will have to suffer through a protracted and dreaded October Lull, always preceding the mid-November rut.

Yes, we do get to enjoy an intense hot and heavy rut like we dream about. But it will be short-lived.

However, another flip side, like trying to figure out the Rubik’s Cube is that those of us who like to pick up a gun should be licking our chops because the bucks will be on their feet, Saturday when the season opens.

Some (most) openers hit the rut wrong and the bucks are either in their resting stage holed up somewhere deep or in lockdown mode with their girlfriends.

And unfortunately hunters nowadays don’t move and hike their properties like in the old days. Hunting season is often a stalemate. We sit in our stands and the whitetails, especially those older bucks, hole up.

But this year the moon throws us the wild card. Lots of does cycling is the key ingredient in the recipe for not only a lot of fun and excitement, but also our best opportunity to stack venison in the freezer.

Course; never know what the weather is going to be like anymore. Might be 70 degrees and tee shirt temps like in 2016, or monsoon-style rain as it was a couple years ago. Then again we might have to deal record rain and snow like last fall.

But hey, it’s deer hunting, not golf or baseball.

The moon cycles exactly every 19 years, termed the Metonic cycle. Back in the years 1992, 2000, and 2011 the full moon was on the same date. On each of those years I scored or missed a big grunting, rutting buck that was shagging does in the sweet spot of Mid-November.

Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.