Case: It’s the most wonderful time of the deer

AP file photo by Orlin Wagner / Mid-November to Thanksgiving is a time when deer hunters fill the woods in hopes of taking a big buck during the season known as the rut.

"Success is where opportunity and preparation meet." — Bobby Unser

Most deer hunters are a little crazy. Maybe you didn't know that, but like I always tell you, I believe part of my job as your humble (well, mostly humble) outdoors scribe is to keep you informed.

The time of year is upon us when, as far as hunter numbers go, the most boots will be on the ground.

Deer hunters will invade the landscape as a blaze orange multitude in most states from around Nov. 15 (my birthday, by the way, and no, it's not too late to celebrate — I'm a 2XL and prefer muted colors and camo) to around turkey day, Thanksgiving (next Thursday, in case you didn't know). What I am talking about here is the highly acclaimed rifle season for buck deer: the joy, glory and seventh heaven for many deer hunters.

Of course, archery season for deer is in full swing, and most bow hunters are nice, relatively harmless individuals, not unlike your crazy Uncle Ed. Bow hunters tend to be the subdued, quiet type. This may be because they spend a lot of time dozing in treestands, but hey, to each his own.

So for all the significant others, family members, friends and coworkers who marvel at the behavior of deer hunters this time of year, I will try to answer a few questions.

Q: What is this thing called the "rut," and why are deer hunters so fascinated with it?

A: The rut, or "rutting period," is the mating season of ruminant animals.

Deer, cattle, sheep, antelope and camels are all ruminants. They are distinguished from other mammals in that they usually have a four-part stomach and digest food through a process of regurgitating food, then chewing it (known as the cud) again. The food is then fermented in one of the stomachs.

Just what you wanted to hear while having your Cheerios this morning.

During the rut, male deer display many bizarre behaviors that include rubbing antlers on trees, wallowing in mud and dust, sparring and fighting with each other, and herding females together. (Much like human males from ages 20 to 30.)

Deer hunters know the rut is the best time to take a big buck deer. Like 2-year-old turkey gobblers (and again, many human males) the wariest old buck will throw caution out the window during mating season.

Deer hunters want to be out there on a stand during the peak of the rut. Many will sacrifice job security and any form of marital bliss they might have had to be in the woods at this time.

Q: What's up with all the talk I hear about different "phases" of the rut?

A: Deer hunters love to talk about this subject, maybe even more than what is the best rifle caliber to use while pursuing whitetail deer or which brand of beef jerky they prefer. Outdoors magazines go on about the pre-rut; the rut between the pre-rut and the actual rut; the seeking, chasing and breeding phases of the actual rut; and, of course, the secondary rut and the post-rut.

Confused? Don't feel like the Lone Ranger. No one is more bewildered by all of this than the deer themselves.

Before magazines and outdoors TV shows told us about all these different phases, life was pretty simple. The deer went into the rut, the hunters went out and hunted, and in a few weeks, everything went back to normal.

Now it seems the whole deal lasts for months.

Oh well, I guess it gives marginally talented outdoor writers like myself something to talk about.

Q: What is the best day to hunt during the rut?

A: That, my friends, is the $64,000 question.

This subject is debated every year in magazines and online, as well as at the barber shop, the Go Mart and other places of higher learning.

You will see a date proclaimed as the best every year in many hunting magazines. How the writers and editors come up with this date is not entirely clear. Some claim it is determined by the length of the days, what phase the moon is in, who won the World Series, and if the woolly worm caterpillar is more black than brown.

Of course, only the deer know what exactly the best day of the rut is, and they ain't talking.

Your best opportunity to take a monster buck will be during the rut, so like Mr. Unser tells us, be prepared for that opportunity. Hunt every day you are able. I will leave it to you to sort out work and relationship issues.

Be safe out there — wear your blaze orange and treestand harness — make sure you have enough potted meet, beef jerky and Little Debbie cakes for a long day in the stand, and let me know how big that buck was.

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.