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The rut is on!

November 12, 2011
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

You know from reading this column that I am a bowhunter. In Iowa, the bowhunting season for deer includes the breeding period that is called the rut.

Well, the rut is on. "I'm not a bowhunter, so why should I care about that?" you ask. We all should be mindful of the rut whether we bowhunt for deer or not because during the rut, does are chased by bucks and eventually they will cross roads. If you've ever watched a buck in pursuit of a doe, then you know that he throws all caution to the wind and will go wherever the doe leads him. If a doe makes it across the road just ahead of you, the buck will follow. Nevermind that the rest of the year he would stop at the road edge and let you pass. During the rut it is different.

Normally, the peak of the rut is the first couple weeks of November. Smaller, younger bucks have been feeling it in the air for the last few weeks. They may not know what everything is all about, but they know that something is starting to happen. The spike buck in the area I hunt has been running around the timber grunting and checking does and fawns in anticipation.

But now it is happening. The big boys are out and running the show. I watched a nice big ten-point chasing a doe out in the open field on my way to work. It was truly amazing to watch. Those who have witnessed this activity know what I'm talking about.

The doe would stand there for several minutes. Eventually, however, she would bolt in some direction. That's when the buck would spring into action and cut her off. It reminds me of a cutting pony that cowboys use to sort off cattle. The buck is very good at anticipating the moves that the doe is going to make. I also might liken it to watching a basketball game. The person guarding works so hard at being in the right place to cut off that attempt toward the basket.

And like the basketball game, occasionally the athlete with the ball will be successful in their fake and drive past. That is what happened with the doe. She was off and now the buck had to play catchup and that he did. The larger, more powerful buck would quickly gain the necessary ground and cutoff the doe again. All of this is a part of the intricate process of the deer breeding cycle. The buck separates the doe from the cover of the woods where it is easier to keep track of her movements. At the same time, he separates the doe from the fawns which are weaned and old enough now to be on their own. And of course, there is at least one other buck off to the side of this whole scenario watching waiting. These subordinate bucks are there should something happen like the car accident possibility I talked about at the beginning of this article.

As I watched, I thought about how much energy the buck was expending. This desire to pass on his genes to a next generation is all consuming during this time. Research has shown that bucks lose up to 25 percent of their body weight during the rut. As soon as breeding has taken place with this doe, the buck immediately begins searching for the next receptive doe. He may sneak a few snacks during this time but he basically puts feeding on hold until after the rut is over. Nature is wonderful to watch and understand.



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