Oct 6, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT
I had a rare but wonderful treat this past weekend, I was able to enjoy my first buck battle of the fall. This was anything but a drag out full on fight, it was just two young bucks feeling their oats. They were pretty evenly matched as both were fork horns, but one seemed a bit more aggressive. If you didn’t know a mature buck was to have a bigger body and rack you would of thought he was the king of the woods the way he acted. He had the hair bristled, ears laid back and that stiff legged gait of a buck on a mission. His buddy could have cared less and kept breaking off the battle royal every time the more aggressive buck tried to initiate something. Does this mean the rut is kicking in? Let’s see what our experts say!
Hank Parker Jr., co-host of Hank Parker 3D:
This week on the rut report, the bucks seem to be slow, at least in my neck of the woods. I am starting to see the dreaded October slump! This is where the deer lose their velvet, break up out of bachelor groups and slow their movement before the rut. I don’t know if deer are preparing for the rut or this just a cycle they go through during this time of the year. This can be a very difficult time for hunting.
But, this will all be over shortly. I have seen the last week of October where everything can turn around for the best. Last year I was in Ohio on October 21, when a guy killed a 200-plus deer chasing a doe. So you never know “exactly” when those does will start to come in.
On the other hand I am getting a ton of pictures with my Spypoint and I have an old deer that is still very regular. I am thinking he may need to meet my Swhacker Broadhead. My focus has been to put out C’mere Deer at different sites to pick up any pattern that I can potentially use to find big boy in his comfort zone.
Blaine Burley, Tecomate Professional Land Manager– Middle GA
With these cooler temperatures, our pre-rut is starting to kick in here in middle GA. I am starting to get lots of big bucks on my Reconyx trail cams (over active scrapes). There are several big bucks that I got on trail cam on my property in Johnson Co., GA last week. I am also starting to see lots of small rubs and scrapes.
I finally got some timely rains. Therefore, I was able to plant most my food plots this past week and my plots are starting to jump out of the ground already. It should be an interesting Oct. in the deer woods here in middle GA.
Duncan Dobie, Tecomate Pro Staffer-Central Kansas:
Early muzzleloader season opened in Kansas on September 19th. I love to hunt this time of year because the bucks are still in their pre-rut, late-summer feeding patterns and if you know what food source they are on you’ll see lots of deer.
I was hunting in central Kansas on property belonging to my good friend John Butler of Buck Forage Oats. John had just planted his oat food plots a week or two earlier and the oats were just beginning to come up. (The oats would definitely be a great food source later in the season.) Fortunately the property I was hunting contained lots of soybeans and the deer were still concentrating on the beans. I was hunting with cameraman Jeremy Heid and we were filming an episode for Bucks of Tecomate.
The beans were just starting to go away – that is, the plants were fully mature and starting to yellow and the deer were no longer eating the tender young shoots. Instead they were concentrating on the beans themselves. It’s always fun and exciting to witness late summer feeding patterns. If you’re lucky enough to be hunting un-pressured deer on a good food source like soybeans, you’ll be guaranteed to see plenty of bucks in bachelor groups during these pre-rut weeks.
First the does and yearling bucks come out an hour or two before dark. Then the 2 year olds start coming out. Sometimes they’ll come out in twos and threes and eventually they all sort of congregate together by age in a safe part of the field. If you’ve got a good age structure on your property, the 3 year olds will soon appear. If you can keep from being detected, you’ll see the same deer come out in the same fields almost every evening.
In my case, I consistently saw ten to fifteen yearlings, seven or eight 2 year olds, and three or four 3 year olds. Of course, what you hope for is to see a mature buck come out while shooting light is still good. Opening Day (Sept. 19) was especially eventful. Even though it was hot (around 82 degrees), the deer surprisingly moved early. The bean field was full of deer by 4 p.m. About one and a-half-hours before dark, a beautiful, heavy framed 4 year old, 11-pointer came out by himself. I watched him for a long time but my goal was to shoot a 5 or 6-year-old buck and it was only the first day of the hunt.
I knew the bachelor groups I was seeing would soon be breaking up, but at this time conditions were ideal to see a mature buck that otherwise might already be totally nocturnal. I saw several yearling bucks pushing and shoving each other. I also saw two 3 year olds doing a little shoving, but it was not aggressive in nature. They were simply testing each other and preparing for things to come.
By the 1st of October, I knew these bachelor groups would start to break up and the bucks would begin to show a lot more dominance and aggression as they moved toward the rut. Things would be changing very rapidly in the weeks ahead as the bucks started getting into their breeding, dominance and fighting mode. They might also change their feeding habits and move onto another food source like clover or corn if available.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep the pressure as low as possible and try to remain undetected at all times, no matter what time of year it is. Sometimes this is a tough goal to achieve. The more you expose yourself to the deer the less likely you are to see a mature buck. For instance, it was tough getting into any of the bean fields in the mornings without being detected. It was also tough getting out in the evenings after dark.
On almost every occasion my cameraman and I were forced to wait in our stand for at least an hour and a half after dark to make sure we could try to sneak out of the field in pitch black darkness. Even though we did everything possible to conceal our movements and hunt the wind at all times, I know we were seen and detected by some deer, mostly while we were exiting the fields. And in cases like that, you never know when the deer you alarm might be the mature buck you want to shoot. You can get away with being “busted” by does, yearlings, 2 year olds, and in some cases even 3 year olds, but the big boys don’t often give you a second chance.
We did discover one isolated section of a soybean field where we were able to get in and out in the mornings with minimal disturbance. We always made sure the wind was right and that spot happened to be the place where I ended up shooting a very nice mature buck on the 6th day of the hunt with my Traditions Vortex. Previously we had seen two other mature bucks in this same isolated field on the second morning of the hunt.
One of the bucks was a very old and heavy framed 4×4 that was accompanied by a beautiful 4 year old 9-pointer. I would have taken the older buck but we were hunting on the ground I couldn’t get a good shot on him. He was at least 6 or 7, possibly older. To me he would have been a super trophy. As things turned out, I was very fortunate to shoot a different buck – a beautiful 5 or 6 year old on the last day of the hunt. (My buck is currently at the taxidermist and I plan to get the jawbone to get a better idea of his age.)
I set up a Reconyx camera on the edge of the field next to the trail where the two older bucks had come out of the woods. I got a lot of doe photos but no big buck photos. The buck I shot was only a few feet out of range of the camera when he stepped out.
All in all it was a fantastic and memorable pre-rut hunt!
Wade Middleton, host of Yamaha Whitetail Diaries:
No sign of the rut this week at all in north central Texas where I’m hunting at. In fact far from it with all the bucks still in large bachelor groups (all of which have remained far from my stand but have shown up at everyone else’s location. We’re hunting travel corridors and pinch points leading to food and water sources solely right now. Most of the deer are not hitting the food plots till right at dusk and into the night. Trail cameras are showing some good bucks moving after dark and we can only hope one moves by early in the morning heading to a bedding area or we can catch one well before the food plots.
I like to hunt this style early in the season and when you get on the right trail you often see five, ten or more bucks passing by in short order as they travel in a bachelor group but on flip side if you’re on the wrong trail you see does, squirrels and swat mosquitoes away but I love it, being back out in the woods looking for mature bucks! We’ll keep you posted on what we’re seeing!
Cody Zabransky, Tecomate Associate Consultant– South Texas:
The dog days of summer have subsided to slightly cooler temperatures. However, at times it may seem that summer will never leave. Hunting season is just around the corner and deer in South Texas are shedding their velvet and polishing up their antlers in preparation for the rut. The rut is still far from kicking off in South Texas and bucks are still holding in bachelor groups. While the whitetails may be far from the rut, I did get to witness a couple of axis fight recently, which surely peaked my excitement for the upcoming season. A little rain across parts of South Texas a couple of weeks ago seemed to help some areas green up overnight. While it’s a great help, more rainfall is going to be necessary. Good luck with archery season!
Bill Miller, host of North American Hunter TV :
I can definitely tell you where the deer don’t even seem to be thinking about rutting yet! The drive from Minneapolis to McLennan, Alberta is 1561 miles each way. I and a hunting buddy drove it all last week heading to and returning from Blue Sky Outfitters for a goose and duck taping.
Driving at all hours of the day and night we saw precisely six deer. All were grazing along wood lines, barely out into the adjacent agricultural fields at first light or last light. No horns. Mostly little shavers.
These weren’t just casual observations of deer we happened to glimpse either. We were looking hard, especially in Canada because my bud wanted to see his first moose in the wild (which he did just outside of Edmonton on our way home).
It’s pretty obvious we’re headed into that dreaded “October lull” period where bucks become extremely difficult to find – not impossible, but extremely difficult. The “lull” is most logically attributable to changes in the deer’s environment. Crops are coming out. Leaves are beginning to fall. Acorns are also falling. Frost is making some soft mass food sources more palatable. And it’s all happening at once.
To find deer now, you can’t be looking where they were four or six weeks ago. If you do, then your hunting is definitely going to experience a lull as well.
Look at the cover. Look at the feed sources. Make a plan that incorporates the changes going on.
Remember, no matter what the weather, no matter which mast is dropping and which crops are harvested, the deer you saw in August and September are still out there living every day. You just have to look for them in different places and in different ways.
And fear not. No matter how bleak it might look, the rut will come … and soon.
P.S. By the facebook posts to which I returned and from what we saw on trailers in Alberta … the elk rut peaked in many places in the last 10 days. Big bulls were stacking up like cordwood. Congrats on a great season to the elk archers!
Luke Hartle, Senior Editor North American Hunter:
Things continue to be slow across the upper Midwest if you’re a bowhunter looking to tag a mature buck. Don’t get me wrong—it can be done—but from Wisconsin through the Dakotas, the reports I’ve been getting have been dismal.
Interesting to note, however, is that multiple reports have been filing in of heightened mature doe use of food plots. The first few weeks of the season produced lots of young bucks and fawns, but a recent shift has brought more does and less of everything else to the food plots. What does this mean? I’m not sure, but it’s been widespread enough to be noteworthy.
So, while you’re waiting for the lull of early October to pass, now is an excellent time to put a meat doe in the freezer. And be patient, my fellow venatic addicts! The rut stand you hung months ago are only a few short weeks from getting hot.
Keep your nose to the wind.
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com:
As I stated earlier I saw two little bucks feeling their oats this past weekend, but that doesn’t mean the rut is here. Bucks and does will show their dominance all year round, I think this was just a combination of having a real set of antlers and one buck trying to show off. In a few weeks those bucks will get their butts whipped by the real bucks that should do most of the breeding. The deer aren’t ready for the rut yet as I’m seeing almost all of the does still with their fawns and some bucks still hanging out though most of them are only seen at night.
If you’re out hunting right now try some light rattling, just tickle the antlers together and sound like a pair of bucks who are testing each other out still. Go easy on the scents right now, a little buck scent will go a long ways, and if you don’t have does in estrous yet refrain from using any hot doe scent as it may spook more than it will draw in. Wait until you see does by themselves and or fawns running around by themselves before you start using the doe in heat scents. Does usually kick their fawns out when they’re ready to be bread. If you’re looking for a doe to shoot use your binoculars on “her” head. That lone doe might really be a button buck wandering around, and could be a trophy of a lifetime in a few years. Good luck out there and be sure to share your photos with us all.