Whitetail Hunting photo

Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream’s Whitetails columnist and writes for the website’s Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.

We are just now entering one of my favorite periods of the rut; the cruising phase. I always know it’s starting up when I see bucks up on their feet, making rubs and scrapes, and just generally being more active. They may badger does some, but much of their activity is still within their core areas. They’re not going bonkers, they’re just up and about…Like they’re getting the kinks out after weeks of feeding and resting. In my experience, there are few better times to hunt a specific buck, as his general whereabouts are still predictable.


Young Gabe Mierau, a 10-year old hunter from Rushford, Minnesota, has a lot to love about the cruising phase. Yesterday marked the opening day of our youth season here, and Gabe was enjoying an afternoon hunt with his father Dean. Perched in a two-man madder stand, Gabe and Dean had already spotted a couple of deer when Dean looked up and saw a beautiful 10-point whitetail headed their way. “Actually, he was only about 40 yards off when I first saw him,” Dean recalls. “By the time Gabe got ready, the buck had walked to within 25 yards. He had just made a scrape and was starting on a rub when Gabe took the shot.”

I was fortunate enough to be called in to assist with finding the buck. Gabe and his younger brother Gunnar proved to be excellent assistants as Dean and I unraveled the blood trail. The monster buck made a downhill run through extremely dense cover, but Gabe had made a perfect shot. He was–as you might expect–one happy young man when we found this deer!