Whitetail Buck

Weather And The Rut

The weather does not dictate when the rut begins as us old timers thought it did for many years. Today, we know that the rut is going to happen whatever the weather. But there are certainly weather conditions which can lead to an excellent rut hunt and weather which can lead to a poor hunt. Here is how I’ve seen weather influence rutting behavior in bucks.

The number one deterrent to buck activity during the rut is heat. All across the northern third of our country and in the Canadian Provinces, bucks are all decked out in their full winter coats by the time the rut rolls around. And under that heavy coat is a thick layer of fat, which the buck will eventually use up during his rutting escapades. All of this insulation is designed for cold weather, not warm, so when a warm front moves in during the rut and pushes temperatures much beyond 50 degrees, rutting activity pretty much comes to a stand-still. Sure the bucks want to be up on their feet carousing around and chasing does, but they just can’t physically do it in warm weather. So what do they do? Bucks reluctantly lay around in the shade all day, chewing their cud and waiting for the weather to cool down enough that they can get back on their feet and get about their rutting business.

Gary Clancy
Gary Clancy

Because it often does not cool down enough until full dark, evening hunts are often not that productive in warm weather. But in the morning, the temps won’t get up into the slowdown or shutdown temps until at least mid-morning. This is our best opportunity to take a buck.

Rain does not cause any problems unless it is a real frog-choker. In a light rain, bucks will be on the move searching for does, nearly non-stop. They may take cover in a stand of conifers during a hard rain, but as soon as the rain slows down a little, you can bet he will resume his rutting ways. No, it’s not a lot of fun sitting in an open stand when it is raining, but I do it anyway, because I know that during a cool, fall rain, every buck in the woods is going to be up and moving.

Snow is like rain, only better. Rammy bucks seem to me, to get all fired up when the snow is falling.

Thick fog, which is common during the rut, especially if you hunt river valleys, is an unknown. I suspect bucks are on the move, but of course, I can’t prove it. I do, however, recall in vivid detail a socked in morning down in the Texas Brush Country when a Texan by the name of John Luger and I rattled up 13 bucks before the fog lifted about noon. We probably could have rattled in even more, but I shot that 13th buck. Those bucks would drift out of that fog like ghosts. It was one of those things you just don’t forget.

I know that bucks move very well in a lighter fog, say one where you can make out a deer at 80- to 100 yards, because I’ve been sitting in a tree stand watching them.

One thing I really like about hunting in the fog, is that human scent is less of a problem. I suspect our scent just pools up beneath and around us and just does not reach a whitetail’s nose unless the deer is very, very close to us.

When the rut is not a factor I detest hunting in a strong wind, because deer just tend to lay up and move very little. But that is not true with bucks during the rut. Now, they throw caution to the wind (pun intended), and I want to be there when they do.

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