Deer 'rut' and turkey density maps now available
Maps are now available on the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Web site depicting the wild turkey density distribution and peak breeding dates for deer in South Carolina.
The breeding season map for deer is the first one ever developed for the state, and the turkey distribution map is an update to an older map, according to Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Project supervisor for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Ruth said, "Wildlife Section biologists attempt to update density distribution maps for deer, wild hogs, and turkeys on a periodic basis. It has been about 10 years since the wild turkey density distribution map was updated, and turkey numbers have moderated due to poor reproduction in recent years. The new map represents biologists' best estimate of the current turkey distribution across the state based on harvest and population trends."
One of the most frequently asked questions that DNR receives from deer hunters is when the breeding season or "rut" occurs for deer in South Carolina. Hunters understand that deer movements naturally increase during the breeding season, therefore, knowing when breeding takes place helps hunters plan their activities during the time that offers the best opportunity to see and harvest deer, according to Ruth. The deer breeding season map is the first of its kind and is based on reproductive data collected since the 1970s.
Peak breeding over most of the state is mid-October through mid-November with about 82 percent of females conceiving between Oct. 6 and Nov. 16. The average date of conception is Oct. 30 and the last week in October and the first week in November have the highest percentage of females conceiving. In the mountains, though, breeding takes place about a month later with peak dates being mid-November through mid-December. Also, there is evidence that peak breeding is slightly earlier in the lowest portion of the coastal plain, said Ruth.
Hunters often perceive that weather and or moon phase cause peak breeding to vary substantially from year to year, but that does not appear to be the case. Data indicates that peak breeding is consistent, varying by only a few days on an annual basis. Also, an analysis done with data combined from a number of states showed virtually no relationship between moon phase and breeding. The bottom line is that photoperiod or length of day determines the breeding season in deer, as well as, most animals and day length changes in a consistent manner each year.
Although weather does not influence when deer breed, it does play a significant role in what hunters see in terms of deer activity. When temperatures are unseasonably warm during the fall, deer simply do not move much during the day even during peak breeding, said Ruth. This gives the appearance that the "rut" turns on and off with changes in the weather, but warm temperatures during the fall simply makes deer move more at night which they do for the most part anyway.
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