Mike: I’ve read about an October “mini rut,” and I’m a believer. I’ve always had good luck seeing bucks on either side of Oct 15. A few years ago on October 11th, bucks were chasing everything that came into a field. A nice 3-year-old got in on the action. He actually did a lip curl for several minutes where one of the does had stopped to pee. Later, a second buck came along, trailing that same doe’s path and stopping at the same spot for several minutes before continuing on the scent trail. Makes one wonder if maybe a few does do cycle a month early. Are you aware of any proof of this? Bob from WI
Bob: Yes, every scientific rut chart/bar graph you’ll see will show that some does come into estrus in October, as evidenced by the chart above from the Minnesota DNR (don’t worry about the 1994 date, deer have always bred during the same time frame and always will). But October breeding is spotty and hit-and-miss. If you’re lucky and in the right spot when a doe comes into early estrus, like you were that October 11, you’ll see a buck or 2 rutting, or more since her smell will pull them out of the woodwork.
One study in your northern region (MI) points out that 80-90% of does are bred in November, and only about 5% are bred in the October. That is “mini” for sure, but hey, as soon as a buck sheds his velvet in September he’s ready, willing and able to hump a hot doe, no matter if it’s October 11 or December 20 (also evident in the chart is more late breeding than most hunters imagine).
I ran this by our friend Dr. Grant Woods, who confirmed that a few older, healthy does come into estrus early in October, while the majority of them get hot weeks or a month later in November.
Grant says, “It’s important for hunters to consider that the peak of doe conception and breeding behavior by bucks are not simultaneous.” So those bucks you see prowling, scraping and even sniffing at does right now are exhibiting normal pre-rut activity, whether there’s an early hot doe in the area or not.
Bottom line: Forget what you might have heard about the “October Lull,” come October 15 you need to get in your bow stand and start hunting hard. Bucks are starting to move, some does are ready, and it’s only going to get better!