When do mule deer rut is a prominent question in the minds of most mule deer hunters. Many hunters think that peak rut takes place around Thanksgiving but it varies as per location and species of deer. Rut season in the northern states is shorter and earlier than the rut season in the southern states. Similarly, rut season for mule deer comes a few weeks earlier than the rut season for whitetail deer.
But in any case, if you wait until Thanksgiving you run the risk of only catching the end of the season or it may be over altogether.
When do Mule Deer Rut
So precisely when do mule deer rut? It is difficult to pin down exact dates but we have some facts to help us. The average gestation period for mule deer is 202 days. We also know that peak fawning dates for mule deer in most years are June 1 to June 7. Now if we move backward, then the peak rut period works out to be Nov 11 to Nov 17.
As per most biologists, it is difficult to predict exact dates as the rut season for mule deer is dependent on various factors.
Photoperiod: This is the amount of daylight that occurs in a 24 hour period and is dependent on latitude. Photoperiod is the foremost factor which governs the timing of rut at any given latitude.
Location: Rut season for mule deer is shorter in the north than in the south. Due to a harsher climate in the north, fawn births need to be timed well to provider a better chance of survival. The intensity of rut in the northern states in also higher due to a shorter period. Whereas rut season for mule deer in southern states is spread over months.
Behavior: Dominant bucks breed more does during the rut season; however the bucks decide the pecking order among themselves much earlier. The bigger bucks tend to drive off smaller bucks during the rut season. Which means if there are fewer bucks in an area then the rut season would be longer due to poor buck to doe ratio.
Biological Research on When do Mule Deer Rut
Referring to existing biological research can be a good way to try and determine the rut season for mule deer. A study of mule deer carried out in Colorado showed that there was a 20-day window during which 70% of the does were bred. Although the average gestation period was 202 days, some fawns in the study were born as early as 170 days and others were not born until 230 days. A similar carried out in National Bison Range on mule deer showed that the median date for breeding ranged between November 1 and December 1.
Most mule deer hunters are keen to know exactly when do mule deer rut. However, it is not as simple as marking the dates on your calendar as the rut season is impacted by various biological factors.
Most biological research indicates the period between Nov 1 and Dec 1 as the rut season. If we try to work backward from the peak fawning dates, then we get the period Nov 11 to Nov 17 as the peak rut season for mule deer.
As it is not easy to predict the precise dates of the rut season for mule deer, our recommendation to all hunters is to start monitoring the deer behavior at least a few weeks earlier so that you do not miss out on your trophy hunt. You can read the following articles if you wish to find out more about rut season for deer:
You can also read our article Where to Hunt During the Rut to help you chose between public spaces or private land for your next hunting trip.
Please check local rules and regulations before you go hunting.