Oct 27, 2011, 11:04 AM EDT
The Rut is starting to peak its beautiful head out of the fall foliage. Signs that it is ready to explode are everywhere, if you know where to look. I know around me the signs are there, and that means in the next two weeks more deer are going to be running around the woods than any other time of the year. Let’s check out what is going on in the whitetail world.
Tom Opre, Host of Eye of the Hunter:
I’m just back from hunting Alaska for moose and mountain goat, where the weather played havoc with my hunting. It all worked out well, other than getting stuck on a glacier for two days, but it looks like another hardcore winter in 907 land. Winter weather is descending on the mountains of Montana. Snow fell down to 3,300 feet of elevation this week, covering the higher mountain valleys. Shorter days and a hard cold is dropping our foliage cover.
I’m still seeing whitetails hitting our cultivated hay fields hard, fattening up. Younger bucks seem to be holding in their bachelor groups, but the older guys are getting frisky on the edges and moving around on their own. We are still a week or so away from things starting to heat up. Peak whitetail rut activity occurs from mid-November to about Thanksgiving. Next week I’m off to Colorado to chase monster mulie bucks, but I’ll be back to hit the “sweet spot” for rattling whitetails in Montana — Nov. 9-12!
Tip: Scent control is one of the biggest obstacles a hunter experiences while hunting big whitetail bucks. Traveling in and out of a stand can create a scent signpost telling every mature buck in the area you are hanging out in his backyard. Most of us have learned to wear rubber boots to help minimize scent on the ground. Many years ago one of my mentors, wildlife cinematographer Glen Lau, shared a valuable tip with me while hunting southern Georgia: Always wash your rubber boots with Scent Killer® soap before heading to the stand. Take a standard back brush, apply water and soap, and wash the entire outside of your boots, including the sole! Wash them every time to you head out to hunt, both morning and evening.
Allen Treadwell, co-host of 100% Real Hunting:
This week found me in southern Oklahoma with my wife doing a little QDMA with the CVA Accura V2. Muzzleloader season opened up with warm temperatures and very dry ground last Saturday the 23rd. We were just outside of Caddo, OK, on the Stuart Ranch hunting 11,000 acres and that country is as dry as I have ever seen. I was surprised to see the number of fawns running around. It appears that they had a pretty good fawn survival rate in that country even as dry as it has been.
Opening morning found my wife Lexa and I overlooking a food plot that was basically just dirt. She was hunting and I was acting as gun loader for the CVA. The first critter to the field was a big boar hog, and one 250 gr powerbelt arrolite behind the shoulder we had our first animal. Then 2 coyotes showed up and neither left the field, followed by a 6.5 year old doe that dropped in its tracks after a well-placed shot.
The next morning we decided to go to a different spot and saw several deer. Mostly does but then later on in the morning a couple mature bucks showed up running together. Judging by what the other hunters in camp were seeing, bucks in that country are still bachelored up. I talked to a buddy in northern Oklahoma and they are starting to see younger bucks chase does. And my farm in Missouri is already loaded up with rubs and scraps.
Checked in with a buddy in southern Iowa and they are seeing some mature deer in daylight moving with good regularity. With the crazy summer we had, it could be hard to predict what those big bucks are going to do next, but all I know as long as you’re out there, you got a chance.
Mark Newell, Tecomate Pro Staffer -Mississippi
If you are from the Deep South you know that our deer are two to six weeks behind most other whitetails. From breeding to birth, southern whitetails are just behind. I said all of this to say that the dreaded lull is beginning now in my home state of Mississippi. This past week deer activity in general was at an all-time low, with buck sighting almost non-existent. Bucks are still in the early pre-rut stage down here and seem to be staying in the thickets longer. They also have given up their defined patterns that they were on earlier in the year.
You may ask, “What brings on this lull anyway?” I cannot speak for all whitetails, but for the deer around here I have narrowed it down to two important factors: Food and Foe.
Food: Food Source Changes
During the past couple of weeks the combines have been working overtime-harvesting corn and soy beans. We all know that bucks are drawn to these areas and are fairly easy to pattern. It usually only takes a couple days of observation to pen them down to a certain trail, field corner, or another particular section of field. All of those opportunities have now left in the back of a John Deere grain buggy.
Also around this time acorn production increases. White oaks are finishing up their dropage, but red oaks are now starting to fall as well. With lots of acorns scattered all over the urgency to “get up and gobble up” in no longer in effect. Even when bucks are on their feet they have no pattern to them as they nomadically cruise in and out of the woods. However, don’t leave these areas by any means. Get on some well-used trails, travel corridor, hardwood corner, or whatever other pinch point you can find that is close to a bedding area and stick it out. Hopefully a shooter buck will come out in range to give you a shot opportunity.
Foe: Hunting Pressure
This is a no brainer. The more hunting pressure put on a hunting area deer in general become more nocturnal, especially mature bucks. Also due to hunting pressure bucks may change their travel routes, staging areas, and bedding areas. When this happens be proactive and have a secondary plan in play. Use the pressure to your advantage and have some stand locations placed where you anticipate the bucks will go. If you don’t have any stands in these locations do a little legwork and establish some different hunting sites. All you can do now is wait things out until pre-rut increases buck activity.
There are many other factors that cause these lulls, such as temperature extremes, weather extremes, and others. I just made mention the two factors that are always constant. Regardless what stage deer are in, stay positive and get out there. You never know what your next hunt will bring, maybe a buck of a lifetime.
Cody Zabransky,Tecomate Associate Consultant – South Texas
While the first Texas cold snap just rolled through (and I’m sure those up north are laughing at this), the deer have yet to get into the rut. While most, if not all bucks, should have shed their velvet by now, I still saw bucks in Deep South Texas with velvet as recently as two weeks ago during a helicopter survey. With the rains South Texas finally received, a lot of the state that I regularly travel is looking greener than it has in a while. Forbs are sprouting and grass is green for a change.
While the rains came, they didn’t come early enough for many trees and many trees succumbed to the harsh summer. With a chance to bow hunt in the Texas Hill Country a couple of weeks ago, I found that deer are quite active trying to find food. Protein feed is going quickly and yellow-dent decoys don’t stay on the ground long as supplemental feed draws many deer in from surrounding, over-populated, areas where supplemental feed isn’t provided in tough times such as these. Good luck with general season opening November 5th and be sure to take your young hunters out October 29-30th for the early youth-only season to help keep hunting alive!
Wade Middleton, host of Yamaha Whitetail Diaries:
It sure seems that things are really picking up in regard to setting up the pecking order out in the woods in the places I’ve been hunting. We took several nice bucks with bow this past week out on my place outside of Del Rio, Texas. During our hunt there, I could tell the bucks were starting to show who was the dominant buck in the area. We saw a couple very aggressive fights between bucks in the three- to four-year-old range and, in fact, one 10-point was seen tossing one 8-point all the way to the ground. We also started seeing new rubs, scrapes and saw enough posturing to know the bachelor groups in that area were breaking up. I also spent some time near Brownwood, Texas and saw similar activity and while there was able to take a nice 11-point off a food plot late one night there.
Personally I’m still keying on food and water sources as well as the travel corridors to and from those areas for our hunts right now. I feel at this point in the season in our area that the scrape and rub lines just aren’t being visited consistent enough to key on for the bigger bucks and I’ll stay with that pattern for really several more weeks in most of those parts of Texas as the peak of the rut is still well over a month away. I will say, however, I pay attention this time of the year to the size of the trees being rubbed on looking to find those rubs that are on big trees so I know I’ve got big buck in the area.
Personally, I like this period over the next month, which is really the Pre Pre-Rut, so to speak, as the best times to pattern a particular buck since it’s not uncommon for a big buck once the rut kicks in to get wanderlust chasing does from one end of the county to the next in our areas. Thus I’ve got no idea where to go find him once he’s running does. I recall one buck several years back that we saw at dusk in one stand near a cactus flay only to see the same buck two miles away the next day in a mesquite flat. Thus if we are trying to pattern deer we’d have been out of luck as he was chasing does like a freshman in college trying to find a girlfriend on the campus. However, early in the season you can pattern deer a lot better, which is why I really like to hunt before the rut kicks in and the chasing begins! Good luck in this coming week in the field.
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com
In my area this past week, I saw a lot more young bucks dead on the highway; I also saw more young bucks trying to cross the roads during daylight. That tells me their hormone levels are rising and that means the rut is getting closer. I was lucky enough to watch a small 6-point buck make a rub on Saturday just 27 yards from me, his neck was swollen already, and he appeared ready for the rut. Then on Sunday near my in-law’s house, I saw a mature older doe with dark tarsal glands. Now this area is full of deer and no hunting is allowed so the deer wander from yard to yard, so it’s not a great judge of “wild” deer, but she has definitely been in heat. I know she’s one of the earliest in the area, but this tells me in the next two weeks a lot more does will be coming into heat.
If you’re hunting and start seeing a lot more motherless fawns wandering the woods, get your doe in heat scent out, the rut is on! Does kick their fawns off of them when they come into heat; they will later rejoin them after they are bred.
Now is when you’ll be sitting all day, so be ready to hunt the does more than anything else as the bucks will be cruising and looking for the first ones to come into estrus. Good luck, shoot straight, and don’t forget to show off your trophy!