CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When morning frost coats the ground and maple trees go from golden to barren, primal urges begin to stir in West Virginia's white-tailed deer.
Bucks stake out territory by scraping leaves off the forest floor and shredding young trees with their antlers. Young bucks challenge older bucks' supremacy. Bucks follow does around, never letting them get far out of sight.
It's called "the rut" - the deer mating season - and it happens every November. For bowhunters, it's the time of year to be in the woods.
"A lot of the really avid archery hunters that have limited amounts of time off from work often select the peak of the rut as the best time to take some vacation and go hunting," said Gary Foster, game management supervisor for the state Division of Natural Resources.
It's simple. The days immediately surrounding the peak of deer mating activity just happen to be the very best time to kill a wary old trophy buck.
White-tailed bucks are usually 31/2 years old before they start growing really big antlers. Stupid deer don't live long enough to grow old. Bucks with trophy racks, therefore, are often a bit smarter and a bit warier than average.
Hunters have a better chance of killing big bucks during the rut because that's when bucks lose some of their natural wariness.
"Let's face it. They lose their minds during the rut," said Paul Johansen, the DNR's assistant wildlife chief. "They have their mind on two things - finding a doe and mating with her."
Bucks become so focused on does during the rut that they do things they'd never ordinarily do.
"Motorist collisions with deer are very much associated with rutting activity," Foster said. "As doe-chasing activity peaks, so does the number of deer-vehicle collisions. It's an important time for drivers to be looking out for deer, especially between dusk and dawn."
So when exactly does all this crazy stuff take place? Foster said it's starting to happen now.