Skip to main content

Peak Rut Times for 2018

Figuring out when the rut will peak this year may be a lot easier than you think.

Peak Rut Times for 2018
Texas is a big state, but you could travel around and hit peak rut somewhere from late September almost to year's end.

"Bucks are already shedding velvet. The rut is gonna come early this year." The comment took me a little by surprise as we sat in a boat 25 miles offshore waiting for a bite. It was still late summer, and I had yet to even dust off my boat, never mind thinking far enough into fall to consider the rut. But my companion, who had been diligently surfing the web the previous day had a head full of notions about how the weather, moon and global temperature change would influence timing of the rut. I indulged him for a while before setting him on a more direct course.

Deer hunters are perpetually trying to solve "the riddle of the rut" and over the years have come up with some pretty creative notions about what triggers it and when it occurs. Theories run the gamut from sunspots to solunar tables; moon phase, position overhead and proximity to earth; and from drought and mast crop to relative humidity. It turns out accurately predicting when peak breeding will occur in your neighborhood is not nearly as complicated as you might think, and I'll tell you how it's done.

Say What?

But first we need to make sure we're using the proper terminology to avoid confusion.

The term rut refers to any and all behavior associated with courtship, mating and breeding. That includes scrape making, rubbing, seeking, chasing and breeding. Hunters often refer to that period when breeding related movement (seeking and chasing) reaches its height and big bucks drop their guard and wander around during daylight as peak rut. Biologists prefer to use the term peak breeding in reference to a relatively narrow window (7-10 days) when the majority of adult does are bred. From a hunting perspective, this can actually be a slower time that hunters sometimes call the lock-down, as deer movement abates considerably.


Straight From the Source

Bob Humphrey with Texas buck


To find out when peak breeding should occur in any given area I went straight to the most reliable source possible, the biologists who work for the various state wildlife agencies where whitetails occur. They've been studying breeding chronology now for a generation or more and have developed and implemented empirical scientific techniques to accurately determine peak breeding dates for their respective states, and often different regions within those states. They used slightly different terms and some were more precise than others, but here's what they told me.

Northeast

  • Maine — November 17-23 for mature does, followed a week later by yearling does.
  • New Brunswick — Onset around November 8-10, followed by a surge around November 17-19, and peak breeding from November 26-29.
  • Vermont — Third week of November.
  • Massachusetts — Latter half of the second week of November.
  • New Jersey — November 3-23 for adult deer; November 17 - December 7 for fawns.
  • New York — Mid-November.
  • Delaware — November 10-20.
  • Pennsylvania — A few days on either side of November 14.
  • Maryland — November 1-15.
  • Virginia — Just after mid-November.
  • West Virginia — November 8-14.

East-Central

  • Ohio — November 3-23
  • Indiana — Same as the surrounding states.
  • Kentucky — Middle two weeks of November, but may vary 3-7 days from west to east, earlier in west.
  • Tennessee — November 21 in the West, November 25 in the East and November 17 in the two Central regions.
  • Minnesota — Week of November 12.

The Heartland

  • Illinois — November 10-20.
  • Iowa — November 8-15.
  • Missouri — November 16.
  • Kansas — Mid-November.
  • Arkansas — November 18 with a standard deviation of 15 days.

The West

  • Montana — mid to late November.
  • Colorado — November 1-15.

South Atlantic

  • North Carolina — Statewide: average peak rut is around November 15; Lower Coastal Plain on October 25; Upper Coast Plain on November 1; Piedmont on November 15; Foothills on November 21; Mountains on November 28.
  • South Carolina — Last week in October and the first week in November.
  • Florida — Highly variable, varying from as early as late July in the extreme South to mid-February in the Northwest.

The Deep South

  • Georgia — Varies across state (see map).
  • Alabama — Northern half from Christmas until mid-January; Southern half from mid-January to first week of February; Black Belt in mid-January.
  • Mississippi — Northwest from December 6-13; South-Central on December 27; Central on January 6; Southeast from January 20-31.
  • Louisiana — Northwest on November 28; Southwest on October 29; East on January 26; Southeast on December 26.

Texas

  • Gulf Prairies and Marshes — Northern study area on September 30; Southern area on October 31.
  • Post Oak Savannah — November 10.
  • Pineywoods — Northern on November 22; Southern on November 12.
  • Cross Timbers — November 15-17.
  • Rolling Plains — North on December 3; South on November 20.
  • Edwards Plateau - East on November 7; Central on November 24; West on December 5.
  • Trans-Pecos — December 8.
  • South Texas Plains — East on December 16; West on December 24.

Conclusion

Like so much of the whitetail's daily and annual routine, timing of the fall breeding season is determined by photoperiodism — changes in the amount of daylight. Furthermore, because those changes occur at the same rate and time every year, so does the rut (with very little exception). Once you figure it out for your area, you can mark your calendar for this year, and the next and the next. Regardless of moon phase, period or position, climate, temperature or moisture, peak breeding occurs at the same time every year.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Food Plots and Dogs

Food Plots and Dogs

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore discusses how to connect food plots to deer and your deer dog.

Dr. Deer: Protein Supplementation

Dr. Deer: Protein Supplementation

For many hunters and land managers, feeding the herd is now a popular management activity. Here's the research behind doing it right.

How to Manage Expectations When Planning and Planting Food Plots

How to Manage Expectations When Planning and Planting Food Plots

Haynes Shelton talks about how to deal with problems and issues you will likely encounter when planning and planting food plots for wildlife. It's all about managing expectations.

Gordon

Gordon's First NAW Hunt

This segment features Gordon Whittington's very first on camera hunt for North American Whitetail.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is perfect to fulfill that Cajun craving.Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe Venison Recipes

Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe

Chef Derek St. Romain

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is...

The X-6000 series is the latest top-notch wireless trail camera option from Moultrie.Wireless Whitetail Work: Moultrie Mobile Does it All Accessories

Wireless Whitetail Work: Moultrie Mobile Does it All

Haynes Shelton

The X-6000 series is the latest top-notch wireless trail camera option from Moultrie.

What can you do to ease the physical and mental rigors of being caught at full draw? Training to Shoot When Stuck at Full Draw Bowhunting

Training to Shoot When Stuck at Full Draw

Jace Bauserman

What can you do to ease the physical and mental rigors of being caught at full draw?

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional requirements will not only increase your chances of harvesting a good buck, but also your enjoyment of whitetail hunting.What Do Deer Eat? Land Management

What Do Deer Eat?

Dr. James C. Kroll

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional...

See More Trending Articles

More Rut

Mike Clerikin rifle hunts the rut in the Show-Me State.Chasing Missouri Whitetails During the Rut Rut

Chasing Missouri Whitetails During the Rut

NAW TV - May 16, 2015

Mike Clerikin rifle hunts the rut in the Show-Me State.

Does run the rut. Use trail cameras to keep tabs on them from start to finish.Focus on Does for Rut-Hunting Success Rut

Focus on Does for Rut-Hunting Success

Gordon Whittington

Does run the rut. Use trail cameras to keep tabs on them from start to finish.

The rut rewards those who hunt aggressively and realize everything can change in a moment.Why You Should Use Aggressive Rut-Hunting Tactics Rut

Why You Should Use Aggressive Rut-Hunting Tactics

Greg Miller

The rut rewards those who hunt aggressively and realize everything can change in a moment.

Last month, I discussed what made 2016 one of the most frustrating whitetail seasons of my career.Part 2: Lessons Learned from the 2016 Deer Rut Rut

Part 2: Lessons Learned from the 2016 Deer Rut

Dr. James C. Kroll - December 06, 2017

Last month, I discussed what made 2016 one of the most frustrating whitetail seasons of my...

See More Rut

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now