The Rutting Moon

Next to being in the woods during the deer season, I most enjoy reading books about how to hunt these wary animals. In fact, the stand beside my bed is a repository for dozens of books, most of which promise to show me the way to bag that trophy buck. As the nights cool and November draws near, my bedstand collection gets more and more attention.

Here at the lake we expect first frost any day now. Time to clean the rifle and begin to make plans. Coincidentally, I have just finished reading a wonderful new book, “Strategies for Whitetails” by Charles J. Alsheimer. (Krause Publications, $24.99). It is well written, informative, thoroughly enjoyable reading and, page for page, just about the best deer hunting book ever in my bedstand collection.

Charlie Alsheimer is well known in some circles, a deer behavior guru to the more impassioned trophy deer hunters who never miss the Benoit seminars and search unrelentingly for whitetail facts and data. Maine trophy buck hunter R.J. Bernier describes Alsheimer as the “complete package.” He is a skilled hunter, schooled deer behaviorist and gifted wildlife photographer.

Alsheimer owns and operates a deer research facility in Bath, N.Y. He has hunted, studied and photographed deer, not only at his facility, but throughout North America. He is also a field editor for Deer Hunting Magazine and host of an outdoor TV show.

“Strategies for Whitetails” comprises four sections: The Animal; The Hunt; Better Deer; and What Matters Most. Although the entire book kept me interested enough to stay awake way past my customary lights-out time, the following three chapters are must reading for any serious deer hunter: Anatomy of the Rut, Deer Activity and What Matters Most.

Alsheimer’s take on the rut, which has come to be called the Lunar Rut Theory, is compelling and logical. Basically, Alsheimer argues that the peak of the whitetail rut is regulated by the lunar cycle. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom of highly respected wildlife biologists like Gerry Lavigne. Lavigne will tell you unequivocally that the rut always peaks on Nov. 15, period.

Here is an excerpt from the book’s chapter about the Rutting Moon. “…the rut’s length will be approximately 40 days long. However, there is a sweet spot in the rut — a time when behavior is at maximum force. The rut’s sweet spot will begin three days after the Rutting Moon and last for about 10 days.” By the way, the Rutting Moon is the second full moon after the autumnal equinox, which this year is Sept. 23. According to the author’s theory, this year’s Rutting Moon takes place on Nov. 12. The whitetail’s prime seek-chase phase will be Nov. 3-13. (You might want to move your hunt a week ahead this year). If you are looking ahead to the fall hunt of next year, 2020, and making plans, consider this: the Rutting Moon next year falls on Oct. 31. This means that, if you subscribe to Alsheimer’s theory, you can look for the peak of the rut to take place much earlier next year. A reason, perhaps, to take up bow hunting?

Equally interesting, I thought, was Alsheimer’s study on deer movement. The best time of day to expect deer activity? It’s no contest. Look for those deer to be moving the most at 8 a.m.! Alsheimer has also gathered significant amounts of data on the effects of temperature on rutting activity. He has found that from New York northward, there is a definite decrease in deer movement when daytime temperatures get above 45 degrees.

“Strategies for Whitetails” is a coffee-table size book that is illustrated with dozens of breath-taking photographs. No deer book that I have seen can match this book’s collection of award-winning whitetail images. They are something to see.

It’s a cliche, but has to be said. If you are more than a casual deer hunter, this book is a must have. It is available at most good bookstores, or you can buy it online at

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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