Nov 3, 2011, 12:15 PM EDT
It’s the first week of November and the magic time is here or will be here quickly for most of the country. Everyone loves October, it signals the start of fall, beautiful leaves and hunting seasons. I’ve been waiting for November though and with all of the activity taking place in the woods right now you should have been too. If you’re one of those lucky hunters who has already tagged out, I’m jealous, but if you’re like me and still looking at a few tags this is our time to shine. I don’t know what can be more exciting than calling in a swelled neck, rut crazy buck sticking of that sweet tarsal gland smell. I’m getting excited just writing this; let’s see what’s happening around the country from our whitetail experts.
Mali Vujanic, Tecomate Associate Consultant– Maryland and Delaware
With Halloween just 5 days a go, things are heating up here in the northeast as we inch closer and closer to The Big Show! Cooler, traditional Fall temperatures have moved into place and many areas are experiencing their first frost of the season. The last of agriculture crops have been harvested and leaves are coming in and out of prime colors as the change creeps down the eastern seaboard. A few good bucks have hit the dirt so far but the majority of mature bucks are still traveling under the cover of darkness. Reports are starting to surface that chasing has begun but this is typical behavior of the younger 1, 2 and some 3-year-old bucks. To reinforce this, more and more deer are getting nailed on the highways. Mature bucks are still reserving their energy and moving almost entirely at night….but this will soon change.
This is perhaps the most critical time of the season and whitetails are experiencing substantial changes in their lives as their 12 month cycle continues to unfold. Both their internal clock and environment are changing and changing fast! First off, hunters are applying more and more pressure and this along can alter deer patterns and deer activity. Next we have the fall “turn” followed by leaves dropping to the ground. This allows more light to breach the inner timber and the sudden change puts deer on natural edge. Finally we have does that are becoming more and more nervous as the young bucks chase and harass them on a regular basis. Combine all of these factors together and you can easily see how this can be a stressful and complicated time in a whitetail’s life.
Over the next 7 – 10 days you can capture some excellent trail camera pictures of bucks by making mock scrapes and to spice up these scrapes you can use Code Blue tarsal scent attractants. Tip: Keep your camera at lease 15-20+ feet from the scrape. And try placing the camera above eye level, as this will give you a great view of the antlers.
Top stand locations right now are transient from bedding to feeding, favoring the bedding areas. Contact calling with your grunt call is a good way to entice a buck out of his bedroom a little earlier on an afternoon hunt. Use caution when entering and exiting the timber and do everything in your power not to spook your does. When exiting your stand be sure to spray it up with scent eliminating spray and be sure to spray the bottom 5 feet of the tree, as a LOT of activity happens in the woods well after dark. I always encourage shooting does but if you are after a good buck, right now is not the time to do so. If you need to kill a doe I advise going elsewhere, as not to booger your spot, respectfully. Good luck….see you in a week!
Wade Middleton, host of Yamaha Whitetail Diaries-Texas:
As typical in central Texas I saw a buck this week chasing a doe. It never fails in my home area that we have a few does come in early this time of the year in the San Antonio, Austin, Hondo Seguin area. No doubt I could smell his hocks, saw her and him bedded down within 30 yards of each other and when I jumped her he was hot on her tail and not even concerned about me at all. His neck was swollen up and he was hot on her tail and she was ducking and dodging. Now keep in mind the good stuff is still weeks away but this sight did not surprise me at all!
A few things to keep in mind about the rut it does peak at sometime or the other but it’s a long cycle in most areas and thus you’ll see a lot of mini cycles so to speak and then one key one. It’s also not uncommon for that one peak one to be generally tied to a good cold snap. I feel the reason why it’s tied to a cold snap is often in our own heads as hunters simply because we’re more apt to hunt under cooler conditions and the deer are more apt to be feeding and moving when it’s cold thus many feel it was to cold weather that kicked off the rut which could not be further from the truth. It’s more likely tied to the fact of us hunters being in the woods, deer are moving and feeding when it’s cold and we as the hunter will see more action then that is rutting in relation!
Good luck in the woods on your next hunt!
Hardy Jackson, Tecomate Pro Staffer Hardy-South Texas:
With 2 inches of rain here a couple of weeks ago, we took advantage of precious moisture and planted 100 acres of Tecomate Max Attract blended with Tecomate Monster Mix in our winter plots. It’s a bit early to plant, but you have to take advantage of the rains when you get them in south Texas, and we had multiple John Deere tractors running at once to get it in the ground as quickly as possible.
We’ve dropped our reversible fences to protect the young plants as they begin to come up. Grains and winter peas will get the early browsing pressure and hopefully the clovers and chicory will come on late and provide the deer much needed nutrition well into the early spring.
October also means scouting the other ranches in the area that we hunt in addition to ours. I spend most of my time here at Campos Viejos, and have a firm grip on our deer herd, but without the Reconyx trail cameras I would be helpless on the other properties. We’ll run up to six at a time, trying to get an idea of what’s out there not only for our hunters, but for the ranch owners to assist with their management goals.
As November nears, fawns lose their spots and the deer put on their winter coats. Rubs and small territorial scrapes are appearing all over the ranch as the bucks have polished their antlers and begin to get a little testy.
Daylight movement has improved as temperatures slowly decline and activity is picking up in the photo blinds as more mature bucks begin venturing in during the last hours of sunlight.
The combination of the dropping temperatures and the nearing of the hunting season make this time here at the ranch some of the most exciting of the year for me. I can’t wait for the first hunters to arrive.
Bill Miller, host of North American Hunter TV :
For me, this edition of the Rut Report is as close to live coverage as is possible. I’m sitting in a deer stand in northeastern Wyoming waiting for a buck to show up … whitetail or mule deer … doesn’t matter. The tag in my pocket is good for either.
On Sunday afternoon just north of the state line in Montana, I saw my first buck of the season who was showing interest in does. So I shot him.
We are taping for the 2012 season of “North American Hunter TV” with Trophy Plus Outfitters in Alzada, Montana. There’s a small group of writers, TV producers and industry folks gathered here for a unique two-deer-in-two-state-in-six-days opportunity. As of this writing 3 of 5 hunters have tagged in Montana. We’re just getting started in Wyoming.
When we gather mid-day and evenings at the lodge each rendezvous reveals a bit more rut activity sighted.
We spotted my buck from our blind situated on a bit of a rise in the middle of a CRP flat above a timbered creek bottom. Directly in front of us on the other side of the creek was an alfalfa field we knew lots of deer were using for evening feed. The plan was to intercept a buck as it used the cover of the creek bottom to move toward the feeding field. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.
Instead, about two hours into the sit I was carefully glassing the creek bottom timber and watched the buck stand up from where he’d been bedded right in front of us. The Nikon Rangefinder revealed he was 378 yards away with nothing but foot high CRP grass between us and him. Though the wind was perfect, there was no way to move closer without getting busted in a flash. We figured our only hope was if he moved across the creek and up into the alfalfa field which was starting to fill up with does we could use the cover of the creek bottom ourselves to make a stalk.
In the next 20 minutes we watched him, he bedded down twice again. This buck was in no hurry to feed or do anything else. He sure didn’t seem worked up about the rut. As the time slipped closer and closer to sunset it seemed we were only going to get to watch and tape this buck.
Then something spooked the deer in the alfalfa and seven does came bounding off the hill right to our buck. Their running and weariness seemed to spook him, too, and we watched his white rack and whiter tail disappear deep into the thick stuff right along with all the does we figured it was over.
We sat and continued glassing. Then, in just a couple minutes the does started reappearing at the edge of the CRP about 100 yards closer to us. Huh?
After all seven does were in the field the buck followed as if on cue. Now he had his head down in that familiar “chasing” posture and he started checking out the does. They didn’t like it one bit and started running again … this time straight at us! The buck dutifully followed.
The whole herd crested the small rise on which we were positioned. I was ready with the rifle up and rested. At first a doe stood directly between me and the buck. Then they took a step in opposite directions. He was broadside at 60 yards. At the crack of the T/C bolt .30-06 fueled with Fusion 150-grainers the buck collapsed and the does continued straight in our direction splitting to both sides of the blind.
All this once again proves it’s better to be lucky than good!
My first buck (whitetail) of the year was down. His hocks weren’t dark, but when I went to dress him there was just a slight, familiar hint of the scent of the rut about him.
And the best thing … from here on forward it just gets better and better!
Wyoming now and Alberta next week! I’ll let you know how it goes.
Allen Treadwell, co-host of 100% Real Hunting:
Well if I must be honest, I always look very forward to Missouri rifle opener on the 2nd Saturday of November; it is usually prime time, peak of the rut. This year I am a bit worried. This past week in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas has shown me that the peak of the rut must be right around the corner. Early in the week I was seeing a lot of little buck chasing, which is pretty normal for the younger bucks to be ready before the big bucks are. But, as the week progressed I have seen a couple mature bucks chasing does and one locked down solid on a doe. With the temperatures being cool and good frosty mornings the deer are feeling it and the rut is absolutely starting. I talked to a buddy of mine, Kevin Smalls who runs KT’s Trophy Hunts in northern Missouri and southeast Iowa and he feels that the peak up there is gonna be around the 8th of November, which could put Missouri rifle season smack dab in the middle of the dreaded lockdown stage. But the deer are feeling frisky and starting to make mistakes so if ya got a tag in your pocket, get out there draw that bow back and wait!
Tom Opre, Host of Eye of the Hunter:
Warm, cold, warm, cold — this would pretty well sum up whitetail deer hunting in Montana right now. Canvassing all my hunting buddies, who are climbing trees for deer rather than mountains for elk and mule deer, the consensus are things are SLOW. Young bucks are still hanging in bachelor groups. Mature bucks have moved off and are starting some pre-rut activity. We are seeing a little scrape activity, but no primary scrapes. Tell-tale signs of our action, just watch the mature does. There’s not much interest or concern. Nor are the bucks making any obvious moves. It’s like your first school dance in middle school — the boys are looking across the dance floor too afraid to make a move.
Tip: When I’m hunting off the ground knowing where your scent is headed is a big factor for successfully hunting big, mature bucks. I raid my fly-tying kit for a single marabou feather. You can find them at any good fly shop or online. Marabou feathers have super loft properties. Tie the feather to a twelve or fifteen inch piece of lightweight monofilament line. Then tie the line, with feather dangling down, from a branch about the height of your head while either standing or sitting on the stand. This allows you to see the feather without making any major movement. When the wind starts moving, watch your feather, and you’ll know where your scent is headed. If it’s in the wrong direction get down and move to another stand. It only takes one slip up on your part to educate a mature buck.
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com:
Around my parts the pre-rut is in full swing still. The young bucks are feeling their oats and are harassing the does, but the does don’t seem quite ready yet. I check a lot of bulletin boards online and I’m hearing mixed results in my area. Some folks are claiming bucks are chasing and does are letting them, and others aren’t seeing anything. This is how deer are, one farm could be the heat of the rut and down the road it could be in a lull. Just like humans not all deer are on the same schedule, this is what makes the rut so much fun to hunt.
Right now a little doe in heat, a little light rattling and setting up downwind from known doe bedding and feeding areas will pay off big time. The big boys should start searching out more and more in the coming week. Be prepared right now for all day sits, and watch the wind, you’re just as likely if not more likely to see a mature buck wandering at midday as you are at last or first light. Be sure to share your trophy photos with us when you’re successful as well.