Rut Reporter Rich Landers, a native Montanan and life-long hunter, is the outdoors editor for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. He has written several books about the western outdoors and has hunted whitetails all his life. States covered: WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, CO.
Whitetail bucks are coming out of the closet in some areas of the West. Some are even chasing does during daylight despite the bright full-moon phase. Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson delivered some proof in the photo above, snapped on Sunday.
He said bucks in his area were on the move and necks on most bucks were clearly swollen. The activity isn't the same across the board, but no hunters should be going out this week without a plan to do some rattling.
Here are the latest reports:
Eastern Washington: "Pictures on my trail camera indicate much more activity during daylight hours," said Nate Krohn, who seriously hunts the eastern Okanogan region. "The majority of the activity seems to be in the early morning. I did notice one area in the snow where it appeared two medium sized bucks were locking horns. It didn't appear to be very intense, but still a sign of change for the better. All of the decent sized bucks I am getting on my trail camera are still by themselves, but I am guessing that will change soon."
Let's hope so. Washington's late whitetail buck rifle hunt in northeastern Washington ends Nov. 19.
Northern Idaho: "Guys in this region are seeing plenty of whitetail rubs," said Tom Anderson, who's been posting more buck photos on the brag board at Big R near Sandpoint. The mule deer rut appears to be peaking right now, and the peak for whitetails usually follows by a week or more.
Idaho whitetail season hunts continue into December in some units.
Montana: The rifle season doesn't end until Nov. 27, giving hunters plenty of time to use the rut to their advantage. But don't put off a hunt. Bucks are in various stages of the rut across the state.
In northwestern Montana, hunters have been seeing pre-rut activity: small bucks chasing does, more scrapes and rubs showing up. "We're still not seeing bigger bucks being taken so far," said Ron Nail in Kalispell. "All check station numbers are down over last year, but hopefully there will be better reports coming in within the next week."
All other reports indicate increased buck activity, bucks with swollen necks and a general buildup to the typical Nov. 20 peak of breeding.
Eastern Colorado: "There was zero activity in the southeast last week, but the whitetail rut in the east-central part of the state was starting to come on," said Robert Amidon, field manager for Atkinson Expeditions. "The bucks were getting a little pushy; a little nose curling is going on, but nothing overwhelming as of yet.
"You can almost count on the rut to be hot and heavy around Nov. 15-21," which is perfect for the archery hunting season, he said. The rifle seasons are closed at this time but will reopen Dec. first in some areas.