There’s no more anticipated event in the deer-hunting world than “the rut.”
The term refers to the mating season for whitetails, a period when female deer are, in a polite term, “in estrus.”
Don’t know that a hunter can look at a doe and be 100 percent sure that she is “in estrus,” but the bucks in the area certainly know.
It’s apparent through a buck’s antics that the air is filled with the scent of a doe in what can politely be called a “delicate condition,” because even the wiliest of bucks will expose himself to all sorts of peril to make sure there’s another generation of his species.
That’s why hunters make sure they’re in their best stands when the rut happens.
It’s also one reason, maybe the main one, why the state has seven deer-hunting areas. (For years, there were eight areas, but Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists merged Area 4 into Area 1 this year). Deer in these seven areas have different rutting periods.
Most Baton Rouge area and south Louisiana hunters spend their time in Areas 1 and 6, and have later deer seasons than hunters in the other five areas.
Areas 1 and 6 include lands around the state’s largest rivers, the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya.
Several years ago, David Moreland, then the State Deer Study leader, offered an explanation: Moreland pioneered a detailed study that found deer in these two areas breed later (meaning the rut happens later) than the October and November ruts found in Areas 2 and 3 that take in central and northern parishes.
Moreland said it appeared the deer adapted to the rivers, that they gave birth to the fawns later to give the fawns a better chance to survive, that the “fawn drop” came after these two flood-prone rivers were, in most years, too high during June and early July to ensure fawn survival.
So, while most fawns in the central and northern parishes are born in June and July, the fawn drop along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers comes in August.
Moreland’s study prompted a major shift in the Area 6 archery season: For years, Louisiana’s either-sex archery season opened Oct. 1 in all areas. The study showed Area 6 fawns were too young on that date to separate them from their mothers, and the move was approved to limit Area 6 archery hunters to a 15-day bucks-only start to their seasons.
Moreland and his crew determined that the primary rut in the southeastern parishes was among the latest in the country, that most Area 6 deer hit the major breeding period in mid-December and sometimes as late as Christmas week.
While it’s correct that most of the females are bred during that first primary rut, the unbred does will come into estrus again some 28 days later for a secondary rut.
So what are south Louisiana hunters to do?
The best advice is to pay attention to the females, the does. With the Area 6 and Area 1 ruts coming, look for areas where does are feeding, then watch for erratic behavior.
Then look for bucks to start showing up.