By Jeff Holmes
The grotesquely swollen neck on this 180-class whitetail looks like one you might expect to see on a buck during late November or early December. But Pennsylvania’s Gary Valvano took this buck on November 1, during southeastern Colorado’s rifle season.
Finally, we’re seeing serious rutting activity out West as we move into November after fall storms moved through much of the region, briefly bringing cooler temperatures and lots of precipitation before warming up again.
Valvano was hunting in what should have been unfavorable conditions with Jack Cassidy of Cassidy Outfitters. His five hunters this year have all shot 160-class or better whitetails, and the season didn’t start until October 27. The first day of this month, a warm day with a full moon, was very good to Cassidy and his clients, who took 174- and 181-inch bucks. Valvano’s monster was out checking scrapes at high noon when he fell. [ Read Full Post ]
By Will Brantley
This morning was cold, in the low 30s with clear skies and a heavy frost, and I’d barely settled into my stand when I heard the sounds of deer crashing across a creek 300 yards the other side of a big green field. Two or three does with a gang of two or three (and possibly more) young bucks burst into sight across the field. The young bucks chased the does until they were sufficiently scattered, then stood around in the field long enough to catch their breath and move on. Later, a big 12-pointer crossed through the same area of the field, nose down. I wish I could’ve gotten a shot at him.
It's clear that right now is the time to be in the woods. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
This is shaping up to be the best whitetail rut I’ve seen in over a decade. I’ve had more phone calls and emails from excited hunters in the last week than I can keep up with, and it’s a good problem to have!
Why is the 2012 rut in the north central region so good? I attribute the great action to the alignment of two major factors that influence buck activity here. First and foremost, the weather in the last week has been stellar; sub-freezing temps at night, day time highs in the 40s, and no significant wind. Bucks that want to move have the perfect conditions to do so and, by most accounts, they’re taking advantage of them. The buck pictured above, a 167-inch Minnesota giant tagged by my friend Bob Borowiak, was shot on one of the crisp, windless mornings that have typified the last week. [ Read Full Post ]
By Will Brantley
[ Read Full Post ]
By Mike Bleech
We’ve seen some changes in deer behavior during the past few days. Mike Stimmell, my scouting partner, saw two bucks that were either sparring very hard or fighting. They were both fair-sized 6- to 8-point-class bucks. He also saw a very big buck with three does and a fawn, and it was sniffing one of the females. No mounting or attempts to mount, and the doe did not try to separate from the other does. Stimmell also saw several fresh rubs.
We’ve also seen changes in deer movement along a route where my Stimmel and I have been driving a scouting circuit. Late last week we saw 37 deer; about 10 to 20 would be normal.
All of the bucks we saw on that circuit were either loners or in the company of one, or more does. The bucks with does were older bucks.
For the first time this fall, I found some brush on which a buck with several tines had taken out its wrath. Apparently the brush became locked in the buck’s tines, since some of the saplings were ripped apart. I take it as a sign of a very horny, frustrated buck, indicating that the rut is getting started. [ Read Full Post ]
By Eric Bruce
Overall Activity Status: What hunters are seeing depends largely on where they are hunting--not only what state they’re in, but also the type of habitat they’re hunting. Last week a friend in Georgia saw 15 deer on a Saturday morning, but a few days ago saw nothing from a different stand. It' not clear how this week’s weather will affect movement. Cold temperatures typically stimulate deer activity, but it is also very windy and a full moon. Most pre-rut states (Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana) are seeing good movement as bucks are becoming more active. Numerous good bucks are being seen and taken by hunters.
But not all is peachy across the South. Shane Dempsey is not seeing much movement in Alabama. “Deer movement has still been relatively slow the last week in northeast Alabama. I've talked to several deer processors and they have all said business has been slow as well. By way of trail cameras, I am still seeing a lot of groups of young bucks in their bachelor groups, but I am also noticing some scrapes and have cameras setup to see what's making them.” [ Read Full Post ]
By Mike Bleech
Overall Activity Status: Daytime buck movement seems to be picking up, though mostly within and hour or so of dark. Does and fawns, too, seem to be moving more during daylight hours.
Fighting: I have heard one report of bucks fighting in western New York.
Rub and Scrape Making: In most of the region, reports tell of fewer rubs and scrapes than normal. This certainly seems to be the case in my part of northwest and north-central Pennsylvania. Here, scraping has apparently dropped off, but this might simply be a matter of scrapes being covered by falling leaves.
Chasing: Nothing yet.
Daytime Movement: I’m seeing more does and fawns moving during daylight hours, as well as more daylight buck photos on my cams. These bucks were out within an hour of darkness, but this should certainly increase your odds of encountering one. Of course it does not mean there is an uptick in daylight movement everywhere, but I’ve seen the same during this part of the fall just about everywhere I have hunted deer over the years, which includes most parts of the country and in the eastern Canadian provinces. [ Read Full Post ]
By Brandon Ray
I’m as ate-up with hunting big deer as any man I know. I think about it year-round, hunt every chance I get, and lose sleep over big racks. But in the midst of that obsession there has to be some balance. So, last week I took a break from my obsession to share what I love with Emma, my 5-year-old daughter.
Emma is a spitfire. She is curious about all things, but especially things outdoors. “Where do deer eat?” “Where do deer sleep?” “Where do deer poop?” “Why don’t does have antlers?” She often helps me put out corn and hay for the deer on the ranch, and rides in the truck with me on evening scouting trips. But she’s never really “gone hunting” with dad. So I told her when she turned five, she could.
My wife Amy packed a pink Little Kitty backpack with everything a girl would need: a coloring book, markers, an I-Pad, snacks, lemonade, tissues, paper towels, and of course B-B, the pink blankie she’s had since she was born. Wardrobe was important, too, including zebra-pattern pants and a leopard-print jacket? I packed her pink Fuse bow and two arrows. [ Read Full Post ]
By Brandon Ray
Overall Activity Status: I’m getting mixed reports up and down the Lone Star State. But there does seem to be a common theme: there are fewer-than-normal bucks at the corn feeders. I expect that to change as the weather cools. Also, bucks should start seriously sniffing does next week. If does are hitting your feeder now, it’s just a matter of time before a buck investigates. That should significantly ramp up buck sightings in the central and northern parts of the region by mid-November.
Fighting: A friend hunting the eastern Texas Panhandle saw two mid-sized bucks shove each other back and forth. As he watched, another fight broke out behind him in the trees. On Friday, October 26, I went after a specific buck I’d seen before--a mature 10-point with a symmetrical rack of about 140-inches. He came in with about ten minutes of shooting light left, but through the binoculars I could see he’d broken off one of his 5-inch brow tines. I decided to pass him and hope we meet again next year, with all tines intact of course. Expect to find more and more bucks with broken antlers as we get closer to the rut. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
One of the most fascinating aspects of compiling the national roundup each week is seeing how all the little factors that influence rut activity are lining up in different regions. Here in the north central region, a strong cold front has catapulted bucks into the seeking phase. My sources reported excellent buck activity over the weekend, and the action should build steadily.
In the Great Plains, however, variable weather patterns have hunters reporting a mixed bag of deer behavior, according to David Draper. Some guys are still seeing pods of bachelored-up bucks, while others are watching bucks badger does. This is a common phenomenon as we approach the onset of breeding season, especially when the weather is acting funky. Local temperature, wind, and precipitation all influence just how much deer activity we get to witness. As I’ve noted before, it’s critical to pay attention to forecasts and plan your hunting efforts accordingly if possible. Hunters in the Plains should see some stellar action when these systems settle down and cool, high-pressure conditions prevail. [ Read Full Post ]
By Will Brantley
I’ve been out of town for a week, and it seems I’ve returned to a different world, at least as far as the deer woods are concerned. Although Mid-South activity was definitely on the upswing when I left, a variety of indicators suggest the full-on seeking and chasing phase of the rut is just around the corner.
First and foremost, I wasn’t just out of town wasting time during such a pivotal point in deer season. Instead, I was antelope hunting in Colorado; as Kentucky’s two-day early muzzleloader season opened last Saturday morning, I was boarding a plane en route to Denver. By the time I’d settled in at camp, I listened to the voicemails on my phone. One was from my dad: “Will, shot a big buck. I’ll send you a picture.”
Turns out, Dad and my younger brother Matt didn’t see much while hunting that Saturday morning, but deer were up and moving for the evening sit. Dad was hunting a box blind over a food plot (the same stand where he shot his big buck last year), and to hear him tell it, little bucks were cruising through the field all evening long. [ Read Full Post ]
By David Draper
One of the aspects of whitetail hunting that doesn't get discussed enough are the cases of the disappearing bucks. You hear reports every year of guys who get great bucks on camera in late summer, only to have them disappear for a month or more before they show back (hopefully) in season. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to think there’s some country-wide strategy session where all the big bucks gather to pre-game and share survival tips for the coming season.
In reality, a number of factors contribute to missing-buck syndrome, including changing food sources, shedding of velvet, and pressure from people who head into the woods to scout and hang stands. After the disappearing act, bucks will normally return to their core territory and, if a hunter is lucky, reappear under a treestand come deer season. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Overall Activity Status: Deer movement was a certified mixed bag last week. Early in the week a low-pressure system brought rain (including thunderstorms) and high winds to the region; this slowed whitetail activity quite a bit. Thursday evening the system blew out of the region and was followed by high pressure and cold temps. I’m already receiving reports of good deer movement.
Fighting: Definitely an increase in aggressive behavior between pre-rut bucks. I pulled a trail camera I’d hung over a scrape last weekend, and on two different nights captured photos of extended buck fights. Iowa bowhunter Christy Hochstettler reported watching a sparring match that turned into a mildly serious brawl shortly after two nice bucks met. I expect more reports of fighting between bucks in the days to come. [ Read Full Post ]
By Jeff Holmes
Chad Ward of Missoula, Montana, may have missed a complete photo of this 130-class whitetail by a nose, but he drilled it at 180 yards with a Federal Premium 200-grain Nosler Partition bullet fired his Remington Model 700 .300 Rem Ultra Mag north of Great Falls last weekend--the first weekend of his season.
“It’s more gun than needed, but I love it and it is great for longer distance shooting that I was expecting might happen in this area,” says Ward, who is the fourth generation president of Montana’s sporting goods stores Bob Ward and Sons.
After talking with a contact at Custom Bird Works and the Big Game Connection in Missoula, I learned about very few whitetails being brought in so far, except for Ward’s.
“I was hunting alone in a river bottom area in Region 4 of Montana, northwest of Great Falls,” recounts Ward. “I snuck down onto a small bluff overlooking the river bottom before daylight. There was just enough light starting so that I immediately saw the buck even though it was almost a half hour before shooting time. The buck was about 400 to 500 yards up river standing right on the bank having a drink. [ Read Full Post ]