I hunt in West TN and Oct 20-27 is normally about the start of the rut. Well I hunted all of bow season and never saw a scrape, rub, or buck running a doe. When I returned home to hunt for our first rifle season, I still had no sign to hunt. However, on the last few days I noticed that several ruts appeared on the edges of the field, rubs were on the cedar and pine trees that border my two largest fields, and I heard a buck running a doe and grunting. I am returning home the 20-27 to finish up rifle season and am hoping the deer will be in middle, to late rut.
I think most of the late rut was a result of the drought that occured in the south. There was and still is little vegetation and I know in my area a very very very small acorn crop. So the deer had little nutrients this year, along with a very harsh heat conditions, and not to mention the EHD problem occuring in many southern states because of the harsh conditions.
The onset of the rut, just like the cycle of antler development has to do with the angle of the sun. Because that angle diminishes earlier at the higher latitudes (in the north), the rut takes place earlier there too. If you would like to read a scientific explanation of this, look at chapter eleven in Deer Antlers, Regeneration, Function, and Evolution by Richard Goss.
As everyone has stated , the rut can change from year to year due to several factors. While I live in Ohio I hunt PA, Michigan, and Ohio. All three states had late ruts this year. PA was a couple of weeks late. I know that a lot of cloudy days in early October can trigger the rut early as well as cold temperatures. I admit I don't know much about drought as a factor. In years of low deer numbers, bucks having trouble finding does will advertise more, scrapes, in-order to locate does. The reverse is also true, that high doe numbers mean that bucks are busy servicing them and don't need to make calling cards. One thing for sure the rut will happen at some point. As we learn more about the nature of things a lot of the old thoughts are being relearned. I think this year we saw some new and different hunting senerio's. That's why they call it hunting and not getting. This current weater will be hard on the bucks as the late rut has them lean with no fat build up facing deep snow conditions.
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