Have you ever wondered why there seems to be an uptick in crashes involving deer as we head into the winter months? If you aren’t a hunter, then it might be news to you. If you commute every day on I-70 as I do, then you are more than aware of the deer that have met an end along the highway.  

Evidence shows that the peak of deer rut is most likely to occur on or around the full moon in November. Many wildlife experts will say that November 15th is a good metric to use for determining when deer will be most active in the fall.

As we move into early Winter, white-tailed deer in North American begin what is called the “rut”. This is when male white-tailed deer (but it includes females as well) are more willing to engage in risky behavior like crossing highways in order to find a fellow deer to mate with. During this time, female deer are in estrus, which is sort of like the peak fertility of the female deer reproductive cycle, and male deer will expend a ton of energy in pursuit of a mate.  

During the rut, you might find a significant increase in signs of deer around town. This can include seeing male deer sparing with one another in an effort to show dominance and fight for a female in estrus. Male deer may also be shedding the last remnants of their velvet from antlers, so you might spot a buck rub in wooded areas. Buck rubs are when male deer antlers become itchy, so they find a tree with grooved bark to help them shed this extra layer on their antlers. You may also see deer engaging in behavior that normally is pretty risky, like crossing the highway or coming up to your home. Deer hunters know that this is the best time to harvest a deer because their guard is down. Although, it is also dangerous for those who drive since deer seem to have a one-track mind during this time of year.  

Deer will use the bark from trees to help them shed the velvet that coats their antlers during the fall. The velvet contains hormonal signals that tell other deer that a male is nearby.

Thankfully, we are entering the end of the rut so we will begin to see fewer and fewer signs of an active deer population. The rut wipes out the energy reserves of deer, and some male deer will even lose a pretty significant amount of weight during this time. However, it is always important to keep our wits about us as it is possible that the deer in our area will enter a “second rut” sometime in early December. This is the chance for all the female deer who did not enter estrus earlier in the fall to find a less dominant male to mate with.  

While I am not a hunter myself, I am thankful for those in our community who enjoy the sport of deer hunting every fall. Without population controls on the number of white-tailed deer, we would see more dangerous driving conditions during this time. Deer hunting also helps to keep the deer population safe and healthy by maintaining a more controlled deer population. 

For more information on hunting and wildlife management check-out these titles available in the KCKPL system:  

1001 hunting tips : the ultimate guide– deer, upland game and birds, waterfowl, big game by Lamar Underwood and Nate Matthews ; illustrations by John Rice ; photographs by Tim Irwin. 

Deer hunting by George Pendergast.