How the Southern Whitetail Rut Differs from the Rest of the Country

The small window of rut-crazed activity in regions such as the Midwest and Northeast is much different than the long drawn-out whitetail rut of the Deep South

How the Southern Whitetail Rut Differs from the Rest of the Country
Deep South white-tailed bucks follow a much different rut cycle than their family members to the north. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Flinn)

It might seem crazy to millions of whitetail hunters, but in the month of December, the rut is about to start. It’s true … for some areas. Not true for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and not even further south in states like Oklahoma and Tennessee. But further south, when the last month of the year rolls up on the calendar, the rut is near.

Yes, for the Deep South, the months of December and January will be some of the best hunting of the year. From South Texas to South Alabama, the bucks are cranked up and the does are coming into estrous. However, unlike the Midwest or Northeast where there are two weeks of can’t-miss action, the southern rut is much longer.

At first glance, hunters might be thinking “Two months of rut … why hunt anywhere else?” Although southern hunters may encounter some high rutting activity across a two-month period, they also will encounter some completely dead days.

Further north, where hunters may experience a couple of dead days during the rut, in the south a dead period may last a couple weeks. A lot of southerners refer to this as a “drip rut.” Meaning, there will be some great days, some decent days, and some poor days over the two-month period. What’s even crazier is properties less than an hour apart can have completely different peak breeding times.


Need some facts? The state of Mississippi is a great place to start. My alma mater, the Mississippi State University Deer Ecology and Management Lab (MSU Deer Lab), has learned a lot from analyzing the extensive variation in breeding dates across Mississippi. Peak breeding varies from late November in the northeast part of the state to mid-February in the southeast. (See the image at the bottom of this article.)


However, within each region of the state, the duration is relatively consistent; about 30 to 45 days with most of breeding taking place within a 21-day period. There may be a second, much smaller breeding cycle three to four weeks later, due to mature does that had to recycle and some doe fawns that matured for their first cycle. This is often what hunters call the “second rut.”

So what does all this mean?

Well, if hunters want to hunt a rutting buck in December or January, they should head to the Deep South. It also shows how critical it is to keep buck-to-doe ratios in optimal balance, like one adult buck per two to four adult does. When the doe ratio gets higher than four, the rut hunting will likely be very weak because bucks don’t have to travel far to find a hot doe, and it takes longer for the bucks to breed all of the does. Running a pre-season trail camera survey is a great way to get an estimate going into the season to determine how many does need to harvested.

Good luck to all the southern hunters heading out for late-season rutting bucks!


mississippi state whitetail rut date
(Image courtesy of Jeremy Flinn)

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

Simms

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

Trending Articles

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Master the hang-and-hunt strategy to unravel the deer rut. Whitetail

Field Skills: Go Mobile to Tag Rutting Bucks

Tony Peterson - November 22, 2019

Master the hang-and-hunt strategy to unravel the deer rut.

Hunters have a love-hate relationship with deer decoys. Here's how to get the most out of your next setup. Whitetail

Whitetails: How to Deke a Bruiser

Bob Robb - November 25, 2019

Hunters have a love-hate relationship with deer decoys. Here's how to get the most out of your...

2018 Arkansas typical whitetail came from waterfowl land and scored 200+ points. Records

Decade's Best: William Lloyd's Record Whitetail

Lynn Burkhead - January 14, 2020

2018 Arkansas typical whitetail came from waterfowl land and scored 200+ points.

Here's a look at the regs and arguments about using bait while whitetail hunting. Whitetail

Baiting Deer Continues to Dwindle in Midwest

Patrick Durkin - December 11, 2019

Here's a look at the regs and arguments about using bait while whitetail hunting.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.