September 19, 2011
Perhaps the number one question I hear from whitetail hunters this time of year is if I’ve read any predictions about when peak breeding activity will occur this fall.
Since vacation time is limited for most, it seems everyone wants to be in the woods for that ever-so-crucial time when mature bucks are looking for love, and thus let their guard down, elbeit for a minute or two.
There is little debate that a heck of a lot more mature bucks would die of old age in these parts if it weren’t for the rut, when both bucks and does become less nocturnal and wary.
I have read a ton of information on forecasting peak breeding activity, but perhaps no one has done as much research on the subject or is held in higher regard than rut prediction guru Charles Alsheimer, who is a native of western NY. Alsheimer uses phases of the moon to forecast when whitetails will come into estrous, and I’ve found his predictions to be on the mark more often than not. At the same time, I’m always interested in what others have so say and I recently stumbled across some research done by wildlife biologists of the Quality Deer Management Association. The group studied fetuses taken from dead deer and monitored when fawns were born to determine — in some cases within a day or two — when a doe was bred. Since the gestation period for a doe is more or less 198 days, it can be calculated with accuracy when conception occurred by simply aging a fetus or monitoring when birth occurs and counting back. The folks at Quality Deer Management did just that, keeping accurate track of the results over several years. Interestingly — their finding pretty closely mirrors that of Alsheimers. Both predict the peak of breeding activity at nearly the same time each year — this year they’ve pegged it at between Nov. 10 and 24. Alsheimer narrowed it just a bit more, putting peak breeding at between Nov. 13-24. Alsheimer also breaks the rut down into four phases: the pre-rut; seeking and chasing; peak breeding and post or secondary rut. Together they encompass pretty much all of our hunting seasons, from mid-October to mid-December. But for most, the most interesting to watch is the seeking and chasing phase (this year predicted to be Nov. 3-12) and the peak breeding phase (Nov. 13-24). So, you really can’t go wrong scheduling a week of vacation during this time, but keep in mind that many believe outside influences such as weather and available food sources can affect peak breeding times.
DEC and federal funds I spoke to Jason Kemper, chairman of the NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board, to get an update of where the state stands in potentially losing more than $20 million in federal funding for conservation programs here. These funds come from excise taxes on a slew of sporting equipment like firearms, bows, fishing rods & reels and ammunition, and are paid back to states to help with wildlife programs, benefitting sportsmen. The potential of losing the funds came to light early this summer when the feds found out that the NY Department of Budget allows legislators to tap into special revenue accounts — like the Conservation Fund — if need be to balance the budget. Wether lawmakers intend to raid the fund or not, the loophole of them being able to was enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to threaten pulling millions in aid to DEC, further crippling this important agency. According to Kemper, the DEC is in negotiations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is awaiting a letter alerting them of the status of the funds. The state has already received its payment for this fiscal year, so if the money is discontinued it would happen next year, Kemper said.