Overall Activity Status: The very presence of this blog (and the entire Field & Stream Rut Reporter site) is proof positive that one of the most powerful tools for predicting the rut is social media. Earlier this week, my inboxes blew up with excited reports and probing questions from hunters who so far this season have been quiet. Now that we’re on the verge of things breaking wide open, it seems like every hunter I know is either in the woods or itching to find out what day they should call in sick. My suggestion: right now!
Why? From the Dakotas to Kansas, my contacts are checking in with reports of major deer activity, which is heartening since many of these same contacts were lamenting the lack of deer spotted even just a week or so ago. While EHD obviously took a pretty good hit from localized deer populations (Nebraska hunter Kurt Kaiser estimates he’s lost 40-60 percent of the deer in his area), bucks are showing up on camera and in person. It’s the peak of the pre-rut, and with a cold front coming on this weekend, I say we should all go hunting today.
Fighting: No major fighting activity reported, but a few contacts said bucks were pushing each other around a bit and doing some light sparring. Interestingly, a couple of guys said they’ve been seeing smaller bucks still running together, though that’s not atypical for bucks that are experiencing their first rut as an adult.
As I reported in a post earlier this week, rattling could be the ticket this week as bucks start fighting in earnest. Several hunters reported rattling in smaller bucks over the course of the past week.
Rub and Scrape Making: Every one of my contacts that spent time in a tree last weekend reported seeing a dramatic increase in both rubs and scrapes, many popping up overnight. Kaiser, who hunts in western Nebraska, reported “a noticeable increase in fresh/new rubs and scrapes from [his] hunt on Saturday to Sunday night.”
Elsewhere in western Nebraska, bowhunter Ryan Shutts reported witnessing two different bucks working fresh scrapes this past weekend. Curt Frazell also reports “lots of bucks hitting scrapes” in southern Kansas, where he predicts this weekend “could be time to smack one on a mock scrape, decoy, and rattling before the first lock down.”
Daytime movement: While no one I’ve talked to has put in any full days on stand, several hunters did report seeing deer on their feet as late as 9 a.m. In south-central Nebraska, hunter Justin Smith got into his stand around 3:30 last Saturday afternoon (three full hours before sunset) and immediately started seeing deer, including two matures bucks chasing a doe.
Estrous signs: In addition to those two bucks chasing, Smith saw seven bucks chasing the same doe on Sunday evening. That follows reports from several sources of multiple bucks chasing single does, significant proof that does are starting to go into estrous. Kaiser also said several of his farmer friends in extreme northeastern Colorado “had a much higher number of good bucks laid up with does around their farms in late October, which I thought meant an early rut. I’m not sure I believe that now. Obviously, there is always a percentage of does that get bred in October. I think that was higher this year, but I don’t think the peak [rut] will be earlier.”
X Factor: Don’t forget about the does. As South Dakotan Spencer Neuharth shows in this photo, this is a great time of year for hunters with doe tags to fill their freezer. Increased hunter activity and chasing bucks will have does on their feet longer, plus the ladies are piling on the fat before winter, making food sources a prime place to set your ground blind or stand. That’s exactly what Neuharth did to tag this fat East River doe.