Bucks seeking does: New Alabama map shows when and where

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Alabama has a new map that gives hunters a better chance at bagging a buck.

The state rut map shows when bucks are most likely to be cruising for does in different parts of the state.

“One of the times they’re most vulnerable to making mistakes or being foolish is the rutting season,” said Chris Cook, deer program coordinator for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

The bucks have scented that one or more does are ready to mate and are covering more ground than usual to get to them. That gives hunters a better chance at finding them.

Alabama’s map is more mixed up than those for some other Southern states — Barbour County, on the Georgia state line, has three distinct rutting dates within 20 miles of each other, Cook noted. He said the widespread dates and the difference in dates between nearby areas is large because thousands of deer were moved around the state from Alabama’s coast or into Alabama from other states, particularly Michigan and North Carolina, during the 1900s. The imports and moves were needed because overhunting and poor management had left few deer in the state.

Cook said Alabama’s earliest dates are in a few spots along the Georgia state line, with the next in an area restocked with deer from Michigan.

Does come into season as days get shorter — and the specific timing trigger is hereditary. Does also tend to stay in the areas where they were born, while bucks range widely, said Lindsay Thomas Jr., spokesman for the Quality Deer Management Association based in Bogart, Georgia. That means traits inherited mainly from the mother spread slowly.

Alabama’s map replaces one that was harder to read, Cook said. Wildlife agencies in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas also put out such maps.

Deer in northern states tend to breed in a fairly narrow time span because fawns must be born in spring so there’s enough good forage for the does to produce milk, Thomas said. In the South, there’s a lot more leeway.

“In general, as you go north to south… the further down you go, the broader the dates get, mostly because you can get away with it,” Thomas said. For instance, he said, whitetail subspecies in Central America can give birth any time of year because it doesn’t matter to fawn survival.

“I grew up hunting in Georgia, where most of the state has a November peak,” Thomas said. After that, he said, they could drive just over the state line into Alabama to take advantage of a slightly later rutting season.

“A lot of hunters do this every year,” he said.

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