The past week must have been the peak of rutting — or mating — activity for whitetails in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. The rut, as it’s called, is triggered initially by the change in daylight hours (called photoperiod). That spurs hormone production in whitetails, and they begin looking for the right partner with which to mate.
The rut in Minnesota is said to peak typically around Nov. 10 to 12, but weather conditions can also affect it. Cold weather seems to spur the rut. The past week must have been peak mating time, because I’ve talked to many, many people who have had stories of encounters with bucks on the move or bucks chasing does.
Of course, when the rut gets cranking, whitetails often are less cautious, which is why it pays to drive a little more slowly this time of year, even in the city of Duluth. I saw a six-point buck ambling through my neighbor’s yard the other day as if it were a cat out for a walk. Lah-de-dah. Another day in the neighborhood. A photographer friend of mine saw a buck and a doe at the end of a pier on the waterfront, apparently where the buck had chased the not-quite-willing doe. The doe managed to get past the buck and lead him back to land, but her mood didn’t change.
Another friend had to nearly stop in the middle of Arrowhead Road on Sunday, then drive around a large buck that seemed unwilling to give any ground. Crazy things happen in the rut.
The lingering rut meant that hunters in Minnesota’s final week of their 16-day season and hunters on opening weekend of Wisconsin’s nine-day season both benefited from the increased whitetail movements.
Any does that weren’t bred in this rut likely will be bred during a secondary rut in December, said my friend and wildlife author Michael Furtman. Most does will drop their fawns about June 1 next summer, and we’ll start the cycle all over again.