Overall Activity Status: The pre-rut is just starting to pop in deep South Texas. Robert Sanders, manager of the Temple Ranch in that region, shot the awesome non-typical buck below. He took the 7 ½-year-old trophy from an elevated stand in a large mesquite tree overlooking a water tank. The buck scored 176 inches. Sanders has several sheds from past years of this buck, and reports the rack was in fact bigger last year.
Fighting: More reports of broken antlers across the northern half of the region indicate more fighting among bucks during peak rut phase. In a familiar river bottom I've been hunting, I'd guess 60 to 70 percent of the bucks, in all age classes, are missing at least one tine. I've seen one mature 8-point missing half his beam and another buck that used to be a fine 10-point broken down to just broken brow tines and stubby beams on both sides!
Rub Making: Most of what I'm seeing is old sign.
Scrape Making: In a 200-yard stretch of creek bottom habitat, I observed four big rubs, but none of them looked like they had been worked recently. Last month I watched numerous bucks cruise that patch of woods.
Chasing: On December 1, I watched a 3 ½-year-old, 9-point mule deer following a muley doe. When she squatted to pee, the buck stood and sniffed that spot for about three minutes, curling his lip and inhaling the scent. He must not have liked what he smelled, because he quit chasing the doe at that point and changed his course of direction. I also watched two small mule deer bucks run and scatter a herd of five does like a busted covey of quail. The mule deer rut is just starting to get going in the Texas Panhandle. I have not seen the older bucks show any real interest in girls yet.
Daytime Movement: Most reports across the region are of good buck movement early and late. The action seemed to slow a little in my area the last few days as snow melted and temperatures went up in to the 60s. There is certainly a correlation between daytime rut activity going up when the temperatures go down.
Estrous Sign: Does are acting nervous and seemingly always being harassed by bucks at this point in the season. Any time you see a single doe, watch her back trail to see if a buck is following her.
X Factor: In most Panhandle counties of Texas, mule deer season runs through December 8. In the Trans-Pecos region, the mule deer season goes through December 15.