Though moonlight has helped melt the heart of many a fair maiden, the effects of the moon on whitetails is less understood. Many hunters, especially those in northern latitudes, believe that the breeding season is somehow ramped up by the moon phases that occur in November. Most biologists aren't as convinced.
Generally, the hunters who buy in to the notion that a lunar phase somehow controls the timing of the rut fall into one of two camps: those who believe the second full moon after the Autumnal Equinox and the contrarians who say it's the new moon that sends whitetails into a frenzy of licentiousness. Of course, this rutting moon business might come as news to most Southern hunters. Depending upon where one hunts in Dixie and upon the gene pool of local deer, the rut is liable to hit its peak at any time between late October and early February, moon or no moon. In some Southern states where various stockings of whitetails from other regions occurred during the middle part of the last century (most notably Mississippi, Alabama and Florida), the timing of the rut is all over the calendar.
Who Turned Out the Lights?
Scientists generally agree that it's actually the shrinking photoperiod, the shortening of the days‚ that is the main factor that kicks off the rut, with secondary causes such as genetics, predation or hunting pressure, the buck-to-doe ratio, local weather, average air temperature and habitat quality also playing a role. An in-depth study of whitetail breeding seasons was conducted at the turn of the 21st century and involved wildlife biologists from eight state fish and game agencies (including Maine, Michigan and Minnesota) and three universities. Essentially, results were based on backdating fetal ages of pregnant does and looking at corresponding lunar phases.
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