• Whitetail Firearm Season

    Whitetail Firearm Season

    This coming Monday, November 4th marks the opening of firearm season for whitetail deer. More hunters will take to our local fields and bush lots during the 6-day season than any other time of the year. Deer season in Grey-Bruce is about to kick off for gun hunters, and this annual event coincides with the most fascinating aspects of whitetail deer behavior, the “rut.”

    The breeding phase of the whitetail deer lifecycle is a pretty interesting topic whether you are an ardent deer hunter or not. The “rut” as it is referred to has a massive influence on deer behavior. This fairly short period of time has a definite impact on the success of local bow hunting and firearm seasons. Also, the rut drives the sharp increase in motor vehicle accidents during this time of year. I just happened to hear an OPP warning on the news in regards to the increase of deer/vehicle collisions over the weekend, a sure indicator the movements of local deer has increased and the rut has begun to kick in.

    The term “rut” actually describes a time period of roughly a month in which reproduction of the species takes place. Within this breeding phase, over the course of roughly a week, the vast majority of whitetail does in the local population will be bred. Does are believed to come into “estrus” for just a few days, which is triggered by photoperiod, and possibly the lunar calendar. Regardless, the vast majority of the doe population in southern Ontario is bred during the first couple weeks of November.

    Researchers have proven this based on fetus/fawn measurements come spring. For whitetail bucks, the rut is a time of madness. Starting in September, testosterone levels within bucks begin to rise, resulting in the shedding of antler velvet, followed by the rubbing of trees, the pawing of dirt scrapes and an increase in travel. Bucks become more dominant and territorial as October wears on. The search for receptive does begins in late October followed by what deer hunters and researchers coin “the peak of the rut.”

    The peak of the rut for the deer hunter is a special time. Hunters who take advantage of our lengthy local archery season know the rut well as they will see the multiple phases of the rut during the continuation of seasons from October up until late December. The peak is often referred to the period of 5 to 7 days when bucks are on the move 24-7 looking for receptive does. This is primetime to be in the deer woods, as the odds of seeing a buck, and often a large mature buck increase. Deer activity during the rut is often controlled by weather and temperature. Warm spells in early November result in less daylight movement and less intense rutting activity. Plenty of rut activity will take place, but often a night. Contrary, the vast majority of deer hunters welcome a cold snap and a light snow for opening morning of rifle season, as this has a positive influence on daylight activity and consequently better results while in the field.

    This busy time in a whitetail buck’s life is also a dangerous one. Mature bucks often assert dominance with clashes of antler. Whitetails sport some serious headgear, and Mother Nature put them there for a reason. There are not many old swamps in Grey-Bruce that haven’t won a battle over a rival buck during the rut. Witnessing a full out whitetail fight is a pretty wild experience, and one you are not likely to see if you are not a deer hunter. I had the chance to watch and listen to the scenario once before and it is something I will never forget. Dangers lurk in other places for whitetails during the rut as well. Crossing a busy road is not out of the question for a buck during the rut. The number of deer hit by vehicles on local roads will continue to climb over the next two weeks as bucks travel far and wide in pursuit of does.

    Bucks seem oblivious to many things including cars this time of year in their search for love. A buck on the trail of a hot doe will stop at nothing to chase her down, while grunting like a barnyard pig with a chest cold, drooling from the lips in a hormone crazed rage.

    The rut brings one final danger to whitetails locally, and that is the correlation with our local hunting seasons. The rut puts bucks on their feet in the relentless search for does to breed. This means more deer sightings for hunters in the stand or field, which relates to more opportunities to secure a harvest. Bucks often throw all caution to the wind during the rut, and will trust his urge to breed over his eyes and often his nose. Senses that make the whitetail the ultimate survivalist are diverted towards finding, chasing and breeding does. This puts the odds in the favor of the hunter, because there is little doubt if it wasn’t for the rut, harvesting a whitetail buck would be a much more difficult endeavor. The rut provides the outdoorsman with the opportunity to take in a large amount of deer activity. Whether you’re a stand sitter or field watcher, the rut allows some insight to deer behavior that the general non-hunting population may never see.

    Monday will be here soon enough. Sick days will be taken, holidays used up. Plenty of classrooms in local schools will be missing a few youth as young hunters take part in their first deer hunt. Someone will harvest their first deer in Grey-Bruce on Monday, some may harvest their last. Friends will get together in deer camp and share stories of the ones they missed, ones they saw and memories from years past. Meat-poles at deer camp will hang the hunt’s bounty that will feed families during the winter.

    Rifle season has arrived in Grey-Bruce, and the hunter gets front row tickets to the world of the whitetail deer for 6 days. Enjoy the show.