Overall activity status: "Check this old guy out," reports Wind River Whitetails' Mike Rinehart. "I bet this deer is 7 ½ years old, and look at the junk on his head. His left antler is palmated, and check out the mega neck he has. This deer will push 250 on the hoof."
Bucks are already beginning to scrape on Rinehart's mile-high ranch in Western Wyoming's eastern front, and the weird-racked buck above as well as the mature buck below just started showing up on his game cameras for the first time.
"He has 13 points on him and notice the deer stand in the back ground?" quipped Rinehart. "Got this one placed correctly."
Widespread reports of pre-rut behaviors have not yet started to pour in from all around the West. It's still only late October, and there's been milder weather in the region right now. That mild weather is due to change throughout most of the western whitetail states beginning Monday.
North of Livingston, MT, Keith Miller at Montana Whitetails says it's still a little early for serious signs of the pre-rut but that he has already seen some scapes from younger bucks. He still has his hunters patterning bucks on basically the same feed-to-bed pattern he's utilized all season. His hunters have been consistently taking mature whitetails since early September.
"The colder weather has the deer on their feet more which increases hunter odds of harvesting some good bucks. Generally in this area we have the pre-rut starting the end of the first week in November where activity starts to pick up."
Fighting/sparring: One report of serious sparring from Wyoming is the only report I've received so far, other than smaller bucks clacking their headgear together a little.
Rubs and Scrapes: Deer are making rubs and have been for some time, but the serious scrape lines are still a ways off almost everywhere. Reports of scrapes have come in from Montana and Idaho, and I expect more states to follow very soon.
Chasing: Young bucks rushing does is the closest reports have come.
Daytime movement: Despite mild weather, nighttime lows have been quite chilly, and contacts have reported increased late-morning and early-evening movement.
X-Factor: Montana Whitetails' Miller nails it when he emphasizes in a recent report the importance of keying in on food sources. Bucks and does are packing on pounds for the rigors of mating ahead and to survive the sometimes-harsh Western winter. Finding undisturbed food sources and carefully hunting routes close to bedding areas where bucks feel safe will pay dividends for the next couple weeks.