By Dr. Dave Samuel

Eddie S. from North Carolina writes to ask what causes the rut in the northern part of the southern states to be in about the second week in November, and for the rut in the lower southern states to be in December. He goes on to say that in North Carolina the rut is in the last week in October or the first week in November.

This is a great question Eddie, and there is no short answer!

Dr. Dave Samuel

There are lots of things we know about the timing of peak rut, and lots we don’t know. We know that the second and third week of November is usually the peak rut all across the northern United States. We also know that cold weather early on can trigger rutting behavior, and hot weather can turn it off. Even though there may be early rutting behavior due to cold weather, the peak stays the same, it just isn’t as noticeable because of the early rutting behavior.

There are also several theories of how the moon affects the rut, but for the most part, the peak rut is based on photoperiod … amount of daylight.

Now, let’s take a look at the South. In some areas of the South, such as middle Georgia, the rut is the same as in the North. In other areas, such as Florida, it can start in July. In still other places, it is in late December or early January or even later. Over many years — thousands — the warmer climates of the South has allowed does to be bred later, and thus, fawns can be bred later than in the North. The more constant warmer weather probably explains, in general, why the breeding peak is later and more variable in the South. But there is more to it because you find different peak rut dates in localized areas.

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