Many Southern hunters jealously scroll through their social feeds, while on stand in late October and November, while the rest of America is busy dropping rutting bucks throughout much of the whitetail range. However, by the time January rolls around most deer hunters have put up their bows and treestands until next fall, but not in Dixie.
November gets all the love throughout much of the country because nocturnal bucks are in overdrive moving in the daylight searching for hot does. While in states like Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and portions of Louisiana and Texas, the rut is still a month or more from kicking off. Even crazier, when you look at a peak rut map of the South, it’s a patchwork of rut dates spanning seven months, with the state of Florida covering all seven months! But why?
It’s easy to understand why deer have a synchronized and tight breeding period the farther north they live – winter weather eliminates fawns born outside of the survivable time frame. However, the South’s moderate winters don’t kill off fawns born outside of a specific window, therefore the date range can vary. But why such a patchwork and not just a later breeding period?
A couple studies point to restocking efforts done decades earlier where deer were brought in from northern states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Many studies show that photoperiod (length of daylight) is what triggers the estrous cycle in does. So, when deer from the North were stocked in Southern states, they kept the same photoperiod trigger, but with longer daylight periods in the South during fall and winter than in the North, it shifted the calendar date later until the photoperiod matched where the deer came from. Thus, causing a mishmash of peak breeding dates throughout the South.
To read more in depth on the two studies that revealed this and the crazy Southern rut, check out this article from the National Deer Association.
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