The 6 Stages of Rut - Raised Outdoors

The 6 Stages of Rut

Many people believe that harvesting crops is the main reason for enhanced deer activity in October and November. Although this is a contributing factor, the rut is the primary reason for the extra deer you see running around with that crazy look in their eyes. If you’re planning on hunting a buck during the rut, it’s helpful to know exactly how the deer will act, and what strategies you can use to your advantage to increase your success this season!

For those of you who don’t know, the rut is the mating season for deer that typically takes place between the middle of October to early December. For every hunter, the rut is the most exciting time of the year. But, there are many different stages and throughout all of these stages, the deer change their behavior.

What are the Six Stages of Rut?

  1. Pre-rut Stage: This stage occurs between mid and late October. During this stage you’ll notice bucks start to rub and scrape trees with their antlers, and you’ll also see bucks are sparring. Hunting during this stage may be more difficult than other stages because deer are not as active. As hunting pressure on deer increases, their patterns are shifting and they are no longer traveling the same paths.
  2. The Seeking Stage: This stage occurs between late October and the beginning of November. Just like it sounds, this phase is when bucks start to seek out females. You might notice bucks wandering out in the daytime and even a few starting to chase deer. Due to the increase in activity, hunting during this stage is a little less difficult than the pre-rut stage.

    Deer Rut Report Map
    Whitetail Deer Rut Map
  3. The Chasing Stage: Yes, we put this stage in bold because this is really the time you want to be ready to harvest. This stage occurs between early and mid-November and is most commonly referred to as “the rut”. During this phase, bucks are very active and chasing females. You probably have an idea of how it goes: the doe are somewhat interested in the males, and the males are going BUCKWILD. These bucks can’t even see straight. This means they are more distracted than normal. They’ve got their blinders on, and are not being as cautious as they usually would be, making them an easier target. 
  4. The Tending Stage: Occurring between mid to late November this is the period when bucks actually start breeding. Because bucks are not out and about like they are during the chasing stage, it’s a bit more difficult to find them. Bucks and doe are normally hidden during this time. You just have to find their bedding areas.
  5. Post-rut Stage: From late November to the end of November, the post-rut phase occurs and is even more difficult to hunt than the tending stage. Although difficult, it’s not impossible. Breeding has died down and bucks are not nearly as active as they previously were. Now that four stages have gone by, bucks are extremely cautious due to the hunting activity. 
  6. Second Rut Stage: When there’s a second rut, it usually takes place during the first few weeks of December. This stage occurs if there are doe who didn’t mate during the first rut. This causes them to go into a second estrous cycle. Although it’s no tending stage, it is possible to see some bucks making stupid decisions, but you definitely won’t see as many.

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Increase the Success of Your Hunt:

Now that you know the stages of the rut, there are a few tips we want to leave you with to increase your chances of success! 

Watch those trail cameras like a hawk. This is the perfect resource to show you exactly when these bucks are active and what they are doing. 

Develop a plan

It’s important to have a plan for your hunt. When are you going? Does it allow you enough time to set up before the deer are active? Where are you going to set up? Do you have everything you need?

Another thing you need to think about are your deer calls. There are certain calls that work during certain stages of the rut! Make sure you are using the right call. For example, buck-grunts can be used during the chasing stage to entice bucks to come and fight the competition roaming in their territory. Using doe bleats and grunts will grab the attention of a buck who is searching for a mate. Remember, If you make one of these calls during the chasing stage, have your bow ready because these bucks aren’t going to play hard to get!

Hunting during the deer rutting season can result in very successful harvests. As long as you understand the stages and have a well-thought out plan, you should be looking forward to a very successful hunting season! Check out our video hunting tips on our YouTube page.

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