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The magic 10 days

According to one of the country's most renowned authorities on deer behavior, whitetails will be looking for love a little earlier this fall.

Charles Alsheimer, who is in the 13th year of a 15-year study with Vermont Department of Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche, is predicting the rut to reach peak activity about 10 days earlier than last year.

Alsheimer puts that time frame between Nov. 4-13 this season, based on when the "rutting moon" is full. Last season, he pegged the height of the rut at between Nov. 15-24.

A long-time field editor of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine with more than 50 years of experience studying and photographing whitetail behavior, Alsheimer is considered a leading authority on the whitetail deer.

His research both with Laroche and on his own deer farm in upstate New York has shaped the debate over the moon's impact on when deer breed.

The science, according to Alsheimer, is rather straightforward. A doe's estrus clock is reset each fall first by the specific amount of daylight and then by moonlight, which provides a light stimulus to the pineal gland.

That moonlight comes with the second full moon following the autumn equinox which this year is Sept. 22. That moon, known as the rutting moon, occurs this year on Nov. 2. Last year, it was on Nov. 13.

The dramatic decrease of lunar brightness following the full moon - known as the moon's third quarter - is what triggers hormonal production by the pineal gland, leading to ovulation and estrus.

Long story short - the second full moon after the autumnal equinox is the mechanism that triggers the rut.

Alzheimer then breaks the rut down into three phases: seeking, chasing and breeding.

During the seeking phase, bucks are more active during daylight as they look for groups of does and possibly catch one in estrus. It will begin this year two to three days before the Nov. 2 full moon.

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