Whitetail movement increasing after cold fronts is a commonly held belief among hunters.
But according to Ken Swenson of Swenson Whitetail Ranch, he sees something different.
“Our deer absolutely increase their eating in a big way before a front arrives. A couple of days in advance, they eat, eat eat and then it actually slows down after the front comes,” he said.
His deer are captive and fed high protein diets but they are still whitetails and go through all of the same cycles as other deer.
“This certainly made me question my thoughts on cold fronts and deer,” Swenson said.
The observation makes sense as animals instinctively feed in advance of plummeting temperatures. Many hunters link cold fronts to not only deer feeding more after they hit but the rut but in fact, rutting cycles are not based on cold fronts either. Perhaps hitting the field before a cold front hits is the ticket.
A study entitled, “The Rut in Whitetail Deer” put out by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department shows rutting is based on does going into estrus and deer actually rut in some parts of the state before cold fronts are even on the radar.
TPWD also reported that “Hunter chronology” has a lot to do with the perceived timing of the rut.
“Traditionally, hunters are more likely to be afield during cool weather. They will usually be out in force with the onset of the first weekend norther during the deer season. When there are many observers spending time in the field it is more likely that breeding activity will be noticed.”
The following are rut dates as detailed in TPWD’s study.
#Gulf Prairies and Marshes
“The earliest whitetail breeding in the state occurred in this ecological region. Breeding occurred in the period August 24 to November 25. There were two study areas: the northern study area had a peak date of September 30, while the southern area was a month later with an October 31 peak breeding date.”
#South Texas Plains
“South Texas had the latest rut in the state. Breeding dates ranged from November 9 to February 1 during the three years. In the eastern part of the area the peak breeding date was December 16, while in the west it was December 24.”
“Most breeding activity happened from October 21 to January 5. Peak breeding dates were November 22 in the northern portion and November 12 in the southern part of the Pineywoods.”
#Post Oak Savannah
“The conception dates for does in this region ranged from September 30 to January 16 during the study period. Two study areas were used. The peak breeding dates for the central and southern portions were almost identical. The peak dates were November 10 and 11, respectively.”
“Most does were bred from October 8 to December 30 in the three years studied. Study areas showed a peak date of December 3 in the north and November 20 in the south. The Rolling Plains had the highest incidence of pregnancy, with 97 percent. Biologists found an average of 1.7 fawns for each doe examined.”
“Conception dates for this region ranged from as early as October 9 to a late date of January 30. The Edwards Plateau, Texas’ highest deer production region was divided into three areas for the study. The eastern part had a peak breeding date of November 7. Peak breeding for the central portion was November 24, and the western area had a peak date of December 5.”
Representing the north-central part of the state, conception dates in the Cross Timbers and Prairies were as early as October 13 and extended to December 17. In the northern portion of the region, the average breeding date was November 15. The average breeding date in the southern part was November 17.”
“Conception dates in the Trans-Pecos ranged from as early as November 4 to as late as January 4 during the 3-year study. The peak date of the breeding season was December 8.”