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CONSERVATION CORNER
For the Week of December 7, 2009
When Is The Rut?
by James L. Cummins

Even with preparations and the best-laid plans, many hunters agree that killing a trophy buck would be near impossible if it weren't for the distraction of the rut. Doe-crazed bucks have been known to wade through rush-hour traffic and jump head-high fences to get to hot does on the other side.

And having just witnessed my wife and I's young female German Shepherd go through her second heat cycle and trying to keep our younger male away from her, the impact of the rut has an even greater meaning.

Just when the rut occurs is still a subject of debate by hunters in many areas, but more so in the state of Mississippi due to an array of reasons.

Depending on your location in Mississippi, the rut may range from the first of December to early February. For example, the rut on my parent's farm in Montgomery and Webster counties typically occurs in early to mid January. Further south along the Gulf Coastal counties, the rut may be in early February. And in extreme North Mississippi, it may be in early December, or even late November.

Fortunately for Magnolia State deer hunters, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) has provided assistance to help hunters know the average breeding dates across the state.

"The technical staff, with the assistance of a multitude of conservation officers, has been conducting deer health checks at specific sites within Mississippi for more than 20 years," according to Larry Castle, chief of Wildlife for the MDWFP. "These health checks are conducted to collect biological data that is unavailable from hunter-harvested deer."

"Some of the data collected at these health checks has included the conception or breeding dates of the mature does that we examine. From this information, we have been able to calculate the mean or average breeding date from a multitude of deer populations."

This information has been formatted to coincide with Geographic Information System map data to create a topographical breeding-date range map for the entire state. This interactive map of mean-conception dates is available through the MDWFP Deer Program website at www.mdwfp.com. Go to the site and type "Deer Breeding Date Map" in the search box and it will locate the range map.

And when you finish that, look around some more on their web site. It is full of great information for the hunter and non-hunter alike.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.