According to one of the country's most renowned authorities on deer behavior, whitetails will be looking for love a little earlier this fall.
Charles Alsheimer, who is in the 13th year of a 15-year study with Vermont Department of Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche, is predicting the rut to reach peak activity about 10 days earlier than last year.
Alsheimer puts that time frame between Nov. 4-13 this season, based on when the "rutting moon" is full. Last season, he pegged the height of the rut at between Nov. 15-24.
A long-time field editor of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine with more than 50 years of experience studying and photographing whitetail behavior, Alsheimer is considered a leading authority on the whitetail deer.
His research both with Laroche and on his own deer farm in upstate New York has shaped the debate over the moon's impact on when deer breed.
The science, according to Alsheimer, is rather straightforward. A doe's estrus clock is reset each fall first by the specific amount of daylight and then by moonlight, which provides a light stimulus to the pineal gland.
That moonlight comes with the second full moon following the autumn equinox which this year is Sept. 22. That moon, known as the rutting moon, occurs this year on Nov. 2. Last year, it was on Nov. 13.
The dramatic decrease of lunar brightness following the full moon - known as the moon's third quarter - is what triggers hormonal production by the pineal gland, leading to ovulation and estrus.
Long story short - the second full moon after the autumnal equinox is the mechanism that triggers the rut.
Alzheimer then breaks the rut down into three phases: seeking, chasing and breeding.
During the seeking phase, bucks are more active during daylight as they look for groups of does and possibly catch one in estrus. It will begin this year two to three days before the Nov. 2 full moon.
The chasing phase is aptly named because bucks are doing just that - chasing every doe they encounter. Alsheimer says this phase should be quite noticeable by Nov. 6 and hit its peak around Nov. 11.
The final phase, known as the breeding phase, is marked by less deer activity and less all-out chasing. That's because deer activity during the rut is dictated by the doe, which typically move very little at this time. This phase will occur between Nov. 8-22.
So, how does all this factor into when you should schedule your hunting vacation? Alsheimer answered that question in the September issue of Deer & Deer Hunting.
"For those who only have one week of vacation to hunt, you'll be happy to know there's a sweet spot in the rut, a magic week to 10 days when deer activity is greatest," Alsheimer said.
It is a time when buck activity will be at its peak, with deer rubbing, scraping, fighting, cruising their territory and chasing every doe they see.
In 2009, that magic 10 days will be Nov. 4-13, Alzheimer said.
Next week, I'll discuss how certain techniques and calls can help spell success during the three phases of the Adirondack rut.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman.
On a side note - am I the only one who finds it peculiar that Vermont's DEC Commissioner is a wildlife biologist and life-long hunter and ours is a career politician from Manhattan who got the job as a political kick-back? Welcome to the Empire State!