Guns & Cornbread: Hunting the Rut & other Deer Hunter Propaganda

Success is where opportunity and preparation meet” Bobby Unser. Most deer hunters are a little crazy. Maybe you didn’t know that, but like I always tell you, I feel that part of my job as your humble (well mostly humble) outdoor scribe is to keep you informed. The time of year is upon us when as far as hunter numbers go, the most boots will be on the ground.

Deer hunting sportsmen will invade the landscape as a blaze orange multitude in most states from around November 15, (my birthday, by the way, I’m a 2XL and prefer muted colors and camo) to around turkey day, Thanksgiving. What I am talking about here is the highly acclaimed rifle season for buck deer, the joy, glory and seventh heaven for many deer hunters.

Bow season for deer is of course in full swing and most bowhunters are nice, relatively harmless individuals, not unlike your crazy uncle Ed. Bow hunters tend to be the subdued, quiet type. This may be because they spend a lot of time dozing in tree stands but hey, to each his own.   

So, for all the wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, family members and fellow workers who marvel at the behavior of deer hunters this time of year I will try to answer some of your questions.

What is this thing called the “rut” and why are deer hunters so fascinated with it?

The rut or “rutting period” is the mating season of ruminant animals. Cattle, sheep, deer, antelope, and camels are all ruminants. Ruminants are distinguished from other mammals in that they usually have a four-part stomach and digest there food through a process of regurgitating the food material, chewing it again, (known as the “cud”) and then the material is fermented in one of the stomachs. Just what you wanted to hear while you are having your Cheerios this morning.

During the rut, male deer display many bizarre behaviors to include rubbing antlers on trees, some will wallow in mud and dust, sparring and fighting with other male deer, and herding females together. (Much like 20 to 30 year old male humans)

Deer hunters know that the rut is the best time to take a big buck deer. Like two year old turkey gobblers (and again, many human males) the wariest old buck will throw caution out the window during mating season. Deer hunters want to be out there, on a stand during the peak of the rut. Many will sacrifice job security and any form of marital bliss they may have had to be in the woods at this time.

What is up with all the talk I hear about different “phases” of the rut?

Deer hunters love to talk about this subject, maybe even more than what is the best rifle caliber whitetail deer or which brand of beef jerky they prefer. Outdoor magazines go on about the pre-rut, the rut between the pre-rut and the actual rut, the seeking, chasing, and breeding phases of the actual rut, and of course the secondary rut and the post rut. Confused? Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. No one is more bewildered by all of this than the deer themselves.

Before magazines and outdoor TV shows told us about all these different phases, life was pretty simple. The deer went into the rut; the hunters went out and hunted, then in a few weeks everything went back to normal. Now it seems the whole deal lasts for months. O well, I guess it guess it marginally talented outdoor writers, like myself, something to talk about.

What is the best day during the rut to hunt?

That, my friends is the 64,000 dollar question. This subject is debated every year in magazines, on line, at the barber shop, the Go Mart and other places of higher learning. You will see a date proclaimed for this every year in many hunting magazines. How the writers and editors come up with this date is not entirely clear. Some claim it is determined by the length of the days, what phase the moon is in, who won the World Series, and if the wooly worm caterpillar is more black than brown. Of course only the deer know what exactly the best day of the rut is and they ain’t talking.

Your best opportunity to take a monster buck will be during the rut, so like Mr. Unser tells us, be prepared for that opportunity. Hunt every day of the rut you are able to. I will leave it to you to sort out work and relationship issues. Be safe out there; wear your blaze orange and treestand harness.

Make sure you have enough beef jerky and Little Debbie Cakes for a long day in the stand and let me know how big that buck was.

– Larry Case w/ Guns and Cornbread. HashtagWV #107. November 2018. If you would like to contact Larry Case, email him at See Larry’s online blog at

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