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When Deer Run Wild: Deer Rut Season

When Deer Run Wild: Deer Rut Season

Posted by Shelby Carlson on 31st Jul 2023

The deer rut season, widely known as the deer mating season, is an annual event that nature enthusiasts and hunters eagerly anticipate. This period marks a significant behavioral change in deer, particularly in bucks, who are otherwise elusive creatures. Let's explore this fascinating phase in a deer's life cycle.

What is Deer Rut Season?

The term "rut" is derived from the Latin word "Rutus," which means roar—a reference to the distinct sounds male deers make during this period. The rut season is when male deer, or bucks, compete for the attention of female deer, or does, in hopes of mating.

The exact timing of the rut season can vary based on geographical location and species, but in many regions, it typically occurs in the fall, from late October to early December. This timing ensures that fawns are born in the spring when resources are plentiful, increasing their chances of survival.

Behavioral Changes During the Rut

During the rut, bucks become more active and less cautious, often throwing their usual wariness to the wind in their quest to find a mate. They mark their territory by rubbing their antlers against trees, leaving a scent that warns off other males and attracts potential mates.

Bucks also engage in sparring matches with rival males—clashing antlers in a show of strength to impress the does. These fights can sometimes be intense, but they rarely result in serious injury.

Observing the Rut: A Spectacle of Nature

For wildlife observers and photographers, the rut season provides a unique opportunity to witness and document the dramatic behaviors exhibited by deer. The increased activity during daylight hours, coupled with the bold, sometimes aggressive actions of the bucks, make for captivating viewing and stunning photography.

However, it's crucial to remember to observe these magnificent animals respectfully and from a safe distance. Interfering with a natural process like the rut can be harmful to the deer and dangerous for humans.

The Rut from an Arborist's Perspective

Arborists, or tree surgeons as they are sometimes called, may also notice the effects of the deer rut season, particularly in areas with high deer populations. During the rut, bucks will often rub their antlers against tree trunks and branches to mark their territory. This behavior, known as 'rutting,' can cause significant damage to trees.

The bark of a tree serves as its protective layer, shielding it from diseases and pests. When a buck rubs its antlers against a tree, it can strip away this protective bark layer, leaving the tree vulnerable to infection and disease. In severe cases, the damage can be extensive enough to kill the tree.

For arborists working in areas with a high deer population, it's crucial to be aware of the rut season and the potential for increased tree damage. Arborists might need to implement protective measures for particularly valuable or vulnerable trees during this time, such as installing tree guards or fencing to deter deer. Deer Buster’s has a wide variety of tree guards that can help protect your trees during rut season.

Additionally, arborists may find themselves called upon more frequently to assess and treat tree damage caused by rutting bucks. Understanding the signs of deer damage and the timing of the rut can enable arborists to provide accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans.

The Impact of the Rut on Gardeners

Gardeners, too, will find that deer rut season can significantly affect their landscapes. As with arborists, the primary concern for gardeners is the potential damage caused by bucks rubbing their antlers against trees and shrubs, which can strip away bark and break branches.

In addition to damaging trees and shrubs, deer may also trample flower beds and other plantings during the rut as they chase potential mates or spar with rivals. This behavior can be particularly destructive in meticulously maintained gardens.

Moreover, as food sources become scarcer in the fall, deer may also begin to forage more widely, feasting on a range of plants that they might otherwise ignore. Consequently, gardeners may notice increased deer browsing during the rut, with favorite deer snacks including hostas, daylilies, and many types of vegetables.

However, there are ways to mitigate these issues. Gardeners can protect valuable trees and shrubs by installing physical barriers, like deer-resistant fencing. DeerBusters has all your DIY fencing needs covered to help protect your plants! Planting deer-resistant flowers and shrubs can also help deter these visitors from your garden.

Furthermore, commercial deer repellents can be effective, though they often need to be reapplied frequently. Another strategy is to use plants that deer find unappetizing, such as those that are poisonous, spiny, or simply distasteful to them.


The deer rut season brings about a unique set of challenges and opportunities for nature lovers, photographers, arborists, and gardeners alike. Understanding this period can not only enrich our appreciation of the fascinating world of deer but also better equip us to manage their impact on our environment.

As we observe these magnificent creatures during the rut, let's remember that we share our environment with them. Whether we're capturing their behaviors on camera, protecting our trees, or safeguarding our gardens, we must strive to coexist harmoniously with nature's remarkable cycles.

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