Timing the South Carolina whitetail deer rut

Outfitter Terry Hiers uses all kinds of information to determine when the peak of the rut is approaching and bucks are less careful.

S.C.’s peak rut takes place within predictable time frame

A large portion of South Carolina experiences peak rut activity within a well-defined time period.

Charles Ruth, SCDNR’s lead deer biologist, said the rut for the majority of the state will be from mid-October through mid-November.

“Localized areas can certainly experience peak periods anytime within that month. And it may change a bit from year to year based on external factors,” Ruth said. “The major exception in South Carolina is the Upstate, mountainous section. The peak there is a little later, in late November. With that peak time, deer rut activity likely begins earlier and can continue into December.”

“Deer will certainly be found at food sources such as agriculture fields, near water and other life necessities prior to the rut,” he said. “But overall deer activity prior to the rut is geared to basic survival needs. And most movement is associated with traveling to and from food and water sources.”

Ruth said that except for a brief period around opening day, deer activity is not high during the early season in game zones that offer August and early September hunting. But seasons opening later may already have increasing deer activity.

Ruth said that during the pre-rut phase, deer movement begins to increase. And, that’s typically a short window of time just prior to the rut.

Bucks are ready to breed earlier than does are

“By October, bucks are usually making scrapes and beginning to move more looking for does that are receptive for breeding,” Ruth said. “The key here is bucks are usually ready for breeding before the majority of the does are in season. But that breeding urge does create more movement by bucks. This includes making and checking scrapes, while looking for does. I consider the rut to be approaching a peak when the majority of doe deer in an area are in estrus and receptive.

Ruth said the rut is historically prime time for hunters to harvest big bucks. Based on the annual scoring of antlers around South Carolina, the period of mid-October to mid-November is a peak time for harvesting a trophy buck. The harvest data shows that this mid-October to mid-November time period is prime time for harvesting bucks or does in general. That’s mainly because movement in both sexes will increase.

Ruth said the impact of unseasonably warm weather is important.

“In the Southeast, we are subject to temperatures in the 80s anytime during the rut. And these high temperatures can negatively impact hunting,” Ruth said. “High daytime temperatures do not make the rut start or stop. That’s because it is controlled by length of day. But rather, high temperatures decrease daytime movements by deer in favor of night. If daytime deer movements decrease, then hunters suffer the consequences.”

Do you hunt in North Carolina? Click here to read about the deer rut in North Carolina.

JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month

Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Carolina Sportsman Magazine and CarolinaSportsman.com.

About Terry Madewell 726 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply