Nov 17, 2011, 12:03 PM EDT
We’re into lucky Week 13 of our Whitetail Rut Report, and this week might be your lucky week. Have you tagged out yet? Have you missed your chance? Unless your season is done you haven’t. The rut is still on in most areas, and if it’s already peaked you have a few does that are always late, plus you get your second rut yet, too. So let’s see what our whitetail experts have to say. Don’t forget to share your trophy shots with all of the fans on Versus, I know I love seeing them!
Jason Snavely, Tecomate Associate Consultant-Pennsylvania:
Rut behavior and activity in PA, where I’ve spent much of my stand time lately, has been very predictable on well-managed properties. Looking over my observation data, buck activity has been excellent during early-afternoon hours. Most notably, from Halloween to present I’ve seen just as many bucks on their feet between the hours of 12 PM and 3 PM as I have during peak AM and PM hours. I’ve passed on several shot opportunities on 3-year-old bucks for an opportunity for a 5-year-old that I’ve committed to. It’s important to note that adult sex ratios (buck:doe) on the properties I’m hunting are 1:2 OR BETTER and age structure is excellent for this region (i.e. several bucks are 3 ½+). In fact, to date I’ve observed more bucks (1.5+) than does! Intensive deer management DOES work on small properties in the northeast.
My observation data shows that for every hour invested on the stand I should expect to see two bucks (1.5+) and a sit of three hours would yield an observation of a mature shooter buck! We can thank our management efforts:food plots, habitat management and property design/layout. Bucks have been observed skirting downwind of doe bedding areas and on more than one occasion I’ve watched interactions between bucks while bumping into each other in these areas. In all cases, it’s very clear that a dominance hierarchy has been previously determined. Scraping activity was VERY high a couple days prior to and following Halloween. Mature bucks have been photographed over scrapes between the hours of 11 AM and 3 PM, which is consistent with my increased observations of bucks during early-afternoon hours.
The bottom line: We’re reaching peak estrous across the Northeast and the quality of your hunts (i.e. bucks observed actively participating in the rut) is a function of how much you’ve invested in your management program. This year has been my most impressive year in the stand, although the buck I’m after has managed to evade me. I’ve drawn on him twice without being presented with the shot I’m looking for. However, I’m comfortable with that because he’s a 5-½ year old buck that hit the ground during year 1 of my management program. In other words, I have a lot invested in him as a deer manager and I will not take marginal shots. The goal is to incrementally improve observations each year. The rest is up to me to invest the time in the stand!
Cody Zabransky,Tecomate Associate Consultant – South Texas
Well, the time has finally come for parts of Texas. The rut has kicked in on the property I work with in East Texas. Bucks with broken antlers are starting to show up on Reconyx cameras and hunters are seeing a lot of buck activity from blinds. The rut in the Post-Oak Savannah and Eastern Edwards Plateau regions of Texas is also kicking in. Through the rest of November will be the time to hunt the rut for these regions. Bucks will be susceptible to rattling and Code Blue scents, but keep in mind that while wind is your friend with spreading lure scents, it’s your enemy in spreading human scent. Planning your hunt set up to take advantage of the wind with lures and augment scent eliminators will increase your odds of success. South Texas and the Western Edwards Plateau will have to wait for the rut to kick off but this gives hunters time to remove cull bucks from the population. As your hunting season continues, remember, recording as much information about harvested animals and deer seen from the blind will give you measures on the progress of your management as well as satisfying requirements of the Managed Lands Deer (MLD) program with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Best of luck!
Wade Middleton, host of Yamaha Whitetail Diaries-Texas:
It’s interesting to note how active the rut is in one place and nonexistent in another right now. For instance, I can see bucks in all stages of the rut near my home and then go to the Whitetail Diaries camp and barely see any sign of the rut and they are only about 2 and half hours apart. To put that in focus a bit more, in the past two weeks I’ve seen bucks trailing, heard fights, seen scrapes, rubs and indications of a lot of rutting activity at home but when I head west nothing that shows me that they are even thinking about looking for love. Normally by this time of year in that area I’m finding a few scrapes to go with all the rubs I’m finding yet so far it’s mostly small rubs and no scrapes. I will say this, I’m really watching to see how the drought has affected the rut this year in that area. If the turkey breeding season is any indication then it’s going to be a slow one with not a lot of visible sign that their interested in breeding. We’ll keep you posted.
On the flip side I’m heading towards Oklahoma for a few days this week and I’m hearing they are really showing signs of being active! We’ll be targeting in areas leading to a large green field that we’ve been scouting a bit with the plans of getting around as many does as we can leading into the field in hopes of an old buck more interested in love and tossing all caution to the wind coming down the trail to where we’re at! Wish us luck
Bill Miller, host of North American Hunter TV :
A 5×5 whitetail near Fort MacLeod, Alberta with Frank Wesley’s Sundown Outfitters put me at three-for-three-for-TV this season. That’s a good thing! None of the bucks have been monsters, but they’re all good deer that obviously wanted to be television stars because they did exactly what we needed them to do for the camera.
In the Great White North we saw the rut begin last week like somebody turned on a light switch!
The area and the outfitter are renowned for big mule deer. For most folks there, whitetail are only an afterthought. New to me in that region is the fact that the mule deer rut there begins prior to the whitetail rut by 10 to 14 days usually. Well this year, both were running almost two weeks behind schedule.
On our first day of hunting, none of our group saw a single deer – whitetail or mulie – that showed any sign of or interest in the rut despite seeing decent numbers of both. On the second day, the guys hunting mule deer reported a few bucks chasing, but we watched undisturbed whitetails that seemed oblivious. There were bucks and does in the same brushy bowl that paid virtually no attention each other.
Then on the third morning, the first whitetail we spotted was a buck working a scrape line that hadn’t even been there the night before. He was a little guy, but we watched him bird dog three does out of the valley. We sat down to glass some more only to hear commotion in the cover above us. Another buck was herding does and sparing with trees just 50 yards away. I got a glimpse of his rack in the jungle and quickly decided this would be a buck we’d shoot if we got the chance.
For the next half hour, he and I exchanged grunts and snort wheezes. Finally his two does had enough and trotted out of the west end of the cover about 100 yards away from us. And the buck dutifully followed first with nose to the ground, then with head high not to let the departing does escape his sight. He trotted through shooting window after shooting window, but finally stopped in the last one.
With the slug gun rested on my knees, I squeezed the shot and the buck collapsed on the spot, but only after the camera captured the steam rushing from his nostrils. That slug literally knocked the snot out of him!
Yes, you read right … a slug in Alberta. Federal Premium Ammunition let me in on the ground floor with the testing of a new slug they will be coming out with next year. This was the first animal ever killed with it, and I can tell you the results were DEFINITIVE and FINAL!
By the way, the rut is in full swing here in Minnesota, too. The big boys are showing up. A good friend took a buck pushing 150 inches less than 300 yards from the front door of my house last Saturday morning. I’m glad Emmer got a great deer, but it sure makes it tough on me since now my wife is asking (legitimately I have to admit) why it was that I traveled 1,200 miles to Alberta to take a smaller deer than I could have taken by walking across the road from the end of my driveway?
Non-hunters will never understand, will they?
Allen Treadwell, co-host of 100% Real Hunting:
Well I’m sitting in a tree stand in Missouri writing this rut report if that tells you anything about how poor the hunting has been here this week. I saw one 3.5 8 point that would go 125 opening day and that has been the highlight of my season so far. I have been rattling and grunting periodically and using some doe in estrus scent as well, and none of it seems to really be working thus far! Warm temperatures and high winds have made it one of the toughest opening few days I’ve ever seen for Missouri rifle season! With very little deer activity I have had a chance to text a lot of buddies that are having the same luck all across the Midwest. Friends in Iowa are struggling battling the same conditions as well as Kansas, Indiana and Ohio. The good news is better weather is coming, cooler temperatures and the moon is getting less and less full with each passing day. If you’ve been one of the lucky ones, congrats! If you’re like me and still waiting, our time is coming! A doe just stepped out—gotta go! Good luck!
I would like to add that shortly after that doe stepped out last night while writing the rut report, a big buck we have tons of history on, trail cam photos for several years and actually even videos of him making scrapes. He had a split g2 on his left side and we call him the split Muley buck that will score in the low 160s stepped out to check the doe, and I was able to place the 180 grain Winchester ballistic tip perfectly and he didn’t leave the Field! Like I said, the best way to kill a monster is to get in a good place and pay your dues! Finally got a chance to put the Outdoor Edge Swing Blade to work again this season! It had thought I didn’t love it anymore!
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com
The rut is coming in waves around here, some experts tell us that we’ve passed the peak of the rut activity this past week. I’m not sure if they are right or not, most of the properties I hunt are public and the buck to doe ratio isn’t what you’d find on the well-managed ranches of Texas. When buck-to-doe ratios are out of whack, you don’t see the intense rut action seen elsewhere. If you’re where a hot doe or two is then it’s a lot of activity, but the rut tends to trickle along longer, too, which can be a blessing. Rifle season opens here after Thanksgiving and the likelihood of a buck or two chasing a doe are very likely.
I want to personally wish all of you all of you happy and wonderful Thanksgiving; remember that this is a holiday of sharing the bounty of the land we all cherish, and a time to reflect and give thanks for the opportunities and joys. In case you haven’t had a chance to yet, get out there and tag that monster buck so you have something extra to be thankful for.