Aug 25, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT
The annual Versus Rut Report is kicking off this week, but we’re going to do things a bit differently this year. Instead of just one person shouldering all of the work, we’re going to rely on your favorite personalities from our shows to help out. I will be acting as your narrator for the next few weeks as we embark on this great time of year, Whitetail hunting season!
I want to hear your feedback and what’s going on in your woods; no one knows better what’s going on than you do. Remember, the rut could be raging in your woods and just down the road it can seem nonexistent, so keep the comments coming.
Jason Snavely, Tecomate Associate Consultant-Pennsylvania: Think spring in the fall! Fall planting northern perennials such as clover, alfalfa, and chicory results in an early jump on annual weeds next spring! Fall establishment is optimal as annual weed competition is low and fall rains promote germination and root establishment. You are sure to have the best-looking spring plots when most plotters are just starting to think about working the ground. It’s one of my favorite northern food plot tricks! Plan at least a year ahead!
Blaine Burley, Tecomate Land Management Professional-Georgia: Wow! I can’t believe deer hunting season is almost here. We have several nice mature bucks on our Reconyx trail cams. The bucks are still in their summer bachelor groups. For the past few weeks, they have been coming out to our summer Tecomate plots on a regular pattern each afternoon. Hopefully, they will be on this same pattern next week.
Hardy Jackson, Campos Viejos-Texas: August temperatures are in the triple digits here in south Texas at Campos Viejos Ranch. As a result, daylight movement of the majority of larger wildlife has been limited to early morning and late evening.
The bucks are in different stages of antler development, and are concentrated around the food plots and the water holes. In the evenings, bachelor groups of 6 to 8 bucks at a time slip into the Tecomate Lab-Lab for a pre-dark meal.
With Reconyx trail cams set up at water holes near the food plots, we’re getting great images of bucks with their rapidly growing racks, and does are now beginning to bring their little ones on occasion to get a drink.
Wade Middleton, host of Deer Gear: For me the ritual of pre-season scouting, hanging stands, planting food plots, practicing shooting, and so much more are as much a part deer hunting as the actual harvest of a deer. And, in fact, there are times I look forward to the work getting ready to hunt a deer more than the actual harvest itself. And this season is no different than any other in that sense.
But I’ve got to admit going into the 2011 season I’ve got some questions about what we’ll see in some of the areas that I like to hunt and I’ll address those all season long. Those questions will mostly tie into how the heat and drought that has dominated much of Texas this year will affect deer hunting now and into the future. My thoughts on the upcoming season vary like the wind as to what we can expect to see.
This summer has been like few I’ve personally seen, and while I’ve seen drought and heat before in Texas, this summer’s excessive heat and subsequent lack of rain will certainly play major roles in what we’ll experience this coming season in places where I do the majority of my hunting. Currently as I spend time in the field, it’s easy to see that the natural browse in many parts of the state has been stressed terribly due to lack of rain and that lack of native browse will play a key role in what happens this fall as hunters hit the stand.
I will say, however, we’re still seeing some good bucks on scouting cameras and that they are still growing as I type this. What I expect to see is some really big bucks and some really poor bucks but not a lot of deer in between those levels. I also personally feel that the ranches that have had a good management plan in place and have kept their herd numbers balanced and have added a supplemental feeding program in place for years won’t be hurt as badly by the drought as other places. Ones that have not been harvesting the right amount of deer to keep the numbers correct for the carrying capacity of the land their hunting—and thus have too many mouths to feed in this drought—will find that the deer will suffer and antler size will be down.
Regardless of what happens and how big or small the antlers are on the bucks harvested this year, I can’t wait to get into the field and hunt those mature bucks that leave you speechless and your heart pounding! See you on down the road and in the field!
Hunting Tip: When doing pre-season scouting, go into and out of the area you plan to hunt in the same manner that you’ll do when hunting season comes along. By that I mean if you ride an ATV, drive a truck or walk in then do that now in the same manner and on the same trail that you’ll be doing when you hunt so that the deer can become accustomed to your mode and direction of travel.
The reason for this is simple: If on opening day you do something TOTALLY different, it will put game in the area on alert. And if you think about it, the farmer, rancher and oil field work drive in and out always the same way and they see more and often bigger game than anyone because the deer get used to their direction and mode of travel. So you as the hunter should do your best to do the same thing!
Having your gear in working order is a big key to success in the field. Check your scope mounts on your rifle to make sure they’re tight, make sure your bow is in working order and nothing is loose, clean your scopes and binoculars, make sure your range finder has new batteries, and that all your safety gear is in place where it needs to be. If you’ll do the little things before the season, you’ll have less to worry about on what can or might go wrong—and that will help ensure venison on the table when the season ends!
Allen Treadwell, co-host of 100% Real Hunting: Well, it is getting to be that time of a year again, and if you are anything like me, it couldn’t get here quick enough! Finally the time of year I can put out my cameras and see what those young bucks I let walk last fall have turned into.
I am from Missouri, and I must admit, early-season scouting makes me anticipate the fall even more. We have suffered from one of the hottest and driest summers on record and I was very worried it would affect the deer herds in both numbers and horn size. Although we may have lost a few fawns during the peak of the hot and dry summer, it appears that the bucks from middle Missouri south have really put on some great racks.
Four or five years from now we may suffer from a lack of mature deer do to the fawn loss, but the upcoming deer season couldn’t have me any more excited! Excited enough that I have found myself out in the extreme heat any time I can find a bit of a cloud giving me some shade, dialing in the new Red Head Black Out bow getting it ready for the September 15th opener of bow season!
Bill Miller, host of North American Hunter TV: The Cabela’s and L.L. Bean catalogs started showing up in the mailbox about three weeks ago, so it’s definitely time to start thinking about hunting. Of course, it’s never far from my mind. But in August here in the North Country, there’s always an August “opening day.” It’s the one when I walk out the back door of the house to let the dogs out in the morning and catch that first whiff of fall on the air. That happened last week, and as always, it was inspirational.
With that whiff I get on the phone and on line and check in with folks I’ll be hunting with in the season ahead. It also sharpens my eye so that every field I drive past at “prime times” get scrutinized just a little bit closer.
That’s how I spotted my first good buck of the late summer just last night! My wife and I were headed from Minnesota back to Eastern Wisconsin on some family business. Rolling east on Highway 23 we came to the town of Rosendale. The highway was closed for road work there, and we were routed on a detour that sent us north on some county roads.
Never one to “follow directions” that well, I picked my own road headed east, figuring it would take us through the Eldorado Marsh that was one of my favorite duck holes as a kid. The choice was a winding, narrow road that runs between corn, bean, and alfalfa fields. When you think of Wisconsin farm country, this is what you think of.
It always amazes my wife that I can’t see the lau
ndry that needs to be picked up from the bedroom floor, but there at a sharp turn in the road in an alfalfa field behind a corn field, I glimpsed a massive-bodied deer sporting a big rack still in full velvet, though it was very light colored, meaning the blood flow has all but stopped to the antlers.
Truly a glimpse, the buck was quickly shielded again behind the cornfield and short of slamming on the brakes and backing up, I couldn’t see him again. But if you put a gun to my head I’d say he was a symmetrical 10-point (that’s Wisconsin lingo – a 5×5 to most of the guys I hunt with these days) that will go close to 150 inches when he’s slick and hard-horned.
In this country, the rut’s a long way off, but that scent in the air combined with a glimpse of a deer like that … well, I can tell you my own hunt-rut is coming on strong!
Luke Hartle, Senior Editor North American Hunter: Things are progressing at a snail’s pace in Minnesota right now, but that’s par for the course on an annual basis.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time trimming shooting lanes and hanging cameras already, and things actually look quite good in the whitetail woods. Given a wet spring and a very hot summer, natural browse is peaking right now, and deer don’t have to travel far to have food, water, and ample shelter.
That said, all my scouting has revealed much more deer sign than expected, especially tracks. As cooler weather settles in with September, I expect this to escalate. The deer are working the bean fields exceptionally hard right now, and multiple late evening glassing trips have turned up a few decent bucks on property I have stands hanging in wait. I have yet to lay eyes on a bruiser, but because the turnover rate of deer is not high in my area from hunting pressure, big, mature deer are difficult to come by.
My scouting cams have been working for about a week now, so pics and a report will come soon. I hesitate to intrude too much during the summer to run cameras in June and July because, in reality, I’m only interested in seeing the end result—and that’s what the deer are doing right now through the open of the archery season in mid-September.
I’ll keep you posted, and you keep your nose to the wind.
Tom Opre, Host of Eye of the Hunter: My 2011 season will find me up high in the mountains chasing monster mulies and down low rattling river bottom whitetails here in Montana. I also hit Colorado, utilizing a coveted landowner’s permit for mule deer I secured in a high-quality management unit.
Montana: Water is always a big issue in the West. With last winter’s record-book snow levels, we are still finding huge amounts of the white stuff in the high mountains. There is so much snow up high it has caused me some concern as to whether I can access some of the high haunts big mulie bucks call home in September. Almost all the creeks and rivers are running above average, thus valley vegetation and crops are well watered and providing ample forage for deer. Conditions have been great for antler growth with a wet spring and dry summer. The whitetail bucks we are seeing look to be healthy and antler growth exceptional in some areas.
Colorado: Some of the largest mule deer bucks ever taken have come from Colorado and this year will be no different. The deer are still on the rebound from the winter kill of 2007, but numbers are starting to get better in those units that were affected the most. The antler growth is looking great in the top two-thirds of the state due to great spring moisture, but the lower third was more than a little dry and the growth is showing due to this factor. Regardless, it will be a great year for big bucks in Colorado. The third season is still extremely late and should be in the prime of the rut during the last 5 days of the season. If the snow flies in October, expect this to be a banner year for big bucks.
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com: Since I’m the editor I can add what I’m seeing, as well. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I have seen some great bucks already this year. I won’t lie to you; in some parts of PA, the deer herd is a bit thin, but where I live they are doing very well. Fortunately, we don’t have the coyote or predator problems others do, so the deer herd only needs to worry about cars, hunters and the occasional loose dog.
With the great weather we’ve had this summer, the bucks are hitting the farmers crops pretty good. They seem to be hitting the same fields every night and are very predictable right now. Early season hunting is easier than many people think. Find the food, and you will find the bucks, and this year is no different. With all of the rain we have had in the Northeast, I’m going to try and tag out early on a nice buck; there will be too many options by mid-October for food sources.
As mainly a public land hunter, I know the challenges of scoring on a big boy, no matter the time of year. Early season is your best bet, though, as the deer are on a pattern and the racks aren’t broken up from the rut yet. Good luck out there, and check in next week for more tips.