Remember back to the first rut reports of the 2013 deer season? Whitetail bucks were on a bed-to-feed pattern, and we hunted them mostly in the afternoons, in and around food sources. We read sign, observed deer, made educated guesses about the best spots to ambush them, and waited for the right wind directions and weather conditions to do so.
Well, we're right back to that. Except it's colder. Much colder. Cold enough that my family offers no sympathy when I come in from a hunt and whine about frozen digits. "If you're stupid enough to sit in a tree when the wind chill is minus 20, don't complain to us…."
So the weather stinks but it gets big bucks on their feet and somewhat vulnerable. Ted Marum, owner of Tri-State Outfitting (tri-stateoutfitting.com) reports that his clients enjoying the first shotgun season in Iowa are having good success setting up near food sources for afternoon hunts. That's one of his clients, pictured above, gripping the antlers of a giant Hawkeye State 8-pointer with brow tines that reach for the moon. Marum is a savvy drive-master, and I'm sure he's making some midday pushes on some of his properties. But when the weather is like this and a property has good food, Marum knows enough to let bucks move naturally. Any estrous does will be clustered near food, so a big buck can double his pleasure with the chance to fill his belly and the possibility of finding a mate.
It's the same scenario at BBT Oufitters (812-653-1290) in south-central Indiana. "I glassed a field this week and watched 47 deer pile in there before dark," says owner Ben Reynolds. "There were a couple of dandy bucks, too. Our muzzleloader season is on right now, and archery goes until early January. But if this weather keeps up, the next week or two should be just awesome."