MOST WHITETAILS in Texas experience their major rut period by January, but there is still hope for hunters to score on hormonally distracted bucks, especially in certain parts of the state.
Understanding how the rut works is important in seeing the possibility of what we often call “late ruts.”
According to a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) study, a doe may be attractive to bucks for about five days, but may be willing to breed for a period of only 24 hours. If the doe is not bred during her first cycle, she will generally come into heat again about 28 days later.
“In areas where there are few bucks, a doe may not encounter a buck when she is first receptive and may not be bred until one of her later cycles. A hunter, landowner or biologist who sees the late breeding activity may be convinced that there was a late rut. On the other hand, those who see does attended by bucks in the early part of the season believe there was an early rut. This helps explain the wide variety of opinions on the timing of the rut during a particular year.”
TPWD also reported that “hunter chronology” has a lot to do with the perceived timing of the rut. Key parts of the state that are still to finish major rutting activity include the following.
These are rut dates as detailed in TPWD’s study.
• South Texas Plains: “South Texas had the latest rut in the state. Breeding dates ranged from November 9 to February 1. In the eastern part of the area the peak breeding date was December 16, while in the west it was December 24.”
• Edwards Plateau: “Conception dates for this region ranged from as early as October 9 to a late date of January 30. The Edwards Plateau, Texas’s 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.”
• Trans-Pecos: “Conception dates in the Trans-Pecos ranged from as early as November 4 to as late as January 4 during the three-year study. The peak date of the breeding season was December 8.”
As you can see some areas still have a lot of rut left, but in reality, most spots in Texas have some does left unbred, and that means excited bucks on the prowl.
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—story by CHESTER MOORE