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.
Oct. 21:** When the rut starts cranking, most of the bucks in the herd go girl-crazy. But some bucks start acting like players the minute they shed velvet. Exhibit A is this beautiful 12-point buck shot in early October by Wisconsin bowhunter Scott Smolen. Scott tagged this 150-class buck nearly a month before bucks get serious about badgering does…yet this whitetail was acting like the chase was on.
“I was sitting in a ladder stand I have on the top end of a ditch that runs down a steep hill,” Scott says. “Just above the ditch is a cornfield, and the stand is in a perfect pinch-point for any buck swinging around the top of that ditch. I only sit that spot a couple times of year, because the wind can be tricky and it has to be perfect. On the afternoon of October 3rd, it was.”
About 6:30 p.m., a big doe followed the trail by Scott’s ladder and fed into the corn. “I could hear several deer behind me in the woods, running around, and I thought they were little ones just playing,” he recalls. “Then another doe came trotting past the stand, stopped and looked behind her. It was clear something had been chasing her. I heard more running around, and another adult doe appeared, acting the same way.”
Not long after the buck showed up. “He put on quite a show,” Scott says. “He was on a brushy, little-used trail. But he stopped where I could see him well and made a scrape, worked the overhanging limb, the whole works. When he was done he walked to the same trail the does had come in on and stood there for 2-3 minutes. Finally he committed to the field and walked into my opening.” Scott shot the buck with his take-down longbow at 8 steps. The buck ran 60 yards and piled up.
There’s an important lesson here: Just because high action rutting behavior isn’t widely evident doesn’t mean that individual bucks won’t push the envelope and behave like slobs. “This isn’t the first buck I shot that pretended the rut was on weeks before it was,” Smolen says. “Some of them are just wound tighter than others, they’re aggressive and badger does whenever they get the chance.”
And if you’re in the woods, you can tag one. If not, well…you can wait, if you want to.