Whitetail Deer Rut Determination

The stages of the rut are determined on the change of decreasing sunlight that triggers the rut and the estrus of the whitetail deer. The dates are specific to geographic location and also vary from year to year.


Seek Stage

Bucks change from mostly nighttime activity to both night and daytime movement seeking estrus does.  Some does begin to produce estrus odor, but most are not receptive to bucks.  The bucks are on the move checking does.  This is a prime time to hunt bucks, especially for bow hunters, due to the buck’s deliberate movement scent checking does and scrapes.  The seek stage normally lasts two to four days in the Midwest, but can vary due to geographic location and deer population.

Do not hunt your Rut stand until the seek stage dates or you will decrease your success!!!

Chase Stage

Does approach the estrus breeding stage and allow the seeking buck to chase her.  She often stops and lets the buck catch up to her before running again.  This can also be a prime time to hunt especially when hunting with a gun. Deer sighting are high but shot opportunity is more difficult than the Seek stage. The breeding can begin for some does, when chasing starts but the majority of breeding begins two to four days after the chase stage begins.

Breeding Stage

Breading stage, often called “lockdown” is when the majority of the does come into estrus.  The does stop running from the buck allowing him to stay close for breeding.

Hunt Fish Journal is not responsible for the hunting results of anyone using the Whitetail Deer Rut Determination dates provided.  Success of hunting the rut depends on many factors.  Those factors include hunter’s skill, scent control, pressure on deer, deer population, and buck to doe ratio.  Some extreme southern geographic locations have a change in sunlight that is not typical to the majority of whitetail deer locations.  The genetic disposition of whitetail deer in these locations may also vary.

The accuracy of the Whitetail Deer Rut Determination dates has been established through 30+ years of data collection and the documented success of Hunt Fish Journal field staff.  In addition, Hunt Fish Journal podcast listeners in various geographic locations have provided verification of the Seek, Chase, and Breeding whitetail activities aligning with the rut determination calculation for their geographic locations.


Click button to proceed and confirm you understand that we're only responsible for giving you the dates. Your success depends on many other factors explained here on this page.