I saw this article by Oak Duke, a writer and hunter from New York, and I think he might be onto something. Oak wrote:
The 2018 whitetail rut should unfold as a mirror image of the 1999 and 2010 events, very early for bow hunters, and then great for those of us who carry a gun into the deer woods in New York and Pennsylvania.
2018 will feature a bifurcated rut … two-pronged.
Oak’s theory revolves around full moons. In September, the moon was full just two days away from the Autumnal Equinox. He says that when this celestial conjunction occurs (the moon and the equinox at the same time) we witness early rutting activity:
Deer hunters best be prepared for what is going to occur, a very early and abbreviated main spike in rut activity prior and through Halloween this upcoming season. A second major peak will reach its crescendo around Thanksgiving, a traditional late rut in the wheelhouse of the gun season.
I see signs that this is indeed occurring, and I have Spartan trail-camera images from here in Virginia to back it up. In the image above, a buck checks one of 10 very early scrapes we found along the edge of a power line. In the image below, two bucks square off in a sparring match near the scrapes (note body of buck on the left, mature).
Check the date and moon on both photos—September 22, the date of the Autumnal Equinox, and the moon is nearly full!
So yes, there is evidence that an early mini-rut occurred in mid- to late September. While Oak Duke believes this will continue into Halloween, I’m not so sure about that. Starting around October 1, from wireless cameras I have set out in several states, I have noticed a discernible decline in buck sightings and rut behavior.
But I agree wholeheartedly with Duke that a second major peak (the primary rut) will occur around Thanksgiving, when, not coincidentally, the moon will again wax full on November 23. I blogged about this in my 2018 Big Deer Moon/Rut Guide, click here if you missed it.
Bottom line, while the first rut of 2018 is long gone, the second and better one is still 6 weeks away. Good luck!