Rutting Behavior

John D. from Delaware writes to ask about something he observed. “Last February, I watched a dandy buck mount a doe. How can this be? I thought the rut occurred in the middle of November?”

Dr. Dave Samuel

Actually John, the peak of the rut does occur in mid-November in most states. However, a buck produces sperm from mid-August through March. He can breed at any time. It’s the doe that determines when breeding occurs and she comes into heat at 26- to 28-day intervals starting in mid-October.

The peak of her cycle (meaning the time when most does get bred) is mid-November for most of the northern part of the United States. She will stay in heat for about three days and during this time bucks are hot on her tail. This is the chasing phase of the rut. And it’s a great time to be in the woods.

But, some does won’t get bred during that November period. And they will come back into estrus in December. Also, especially in farm country, about one-quarter of the fawn does will also get bred, and most of those get bred in the December cycle.

What you observed, a doe getting bred in February, would be unusual for your part of the country, but for some reason, that doe did not get bred earlier, so she continued to come into estrus every 26- to 28 days. It doesn’t happen often in the north, but it can happen.

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If you have a deer question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of’s content at

Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he’s been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 30 years.

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