Landers: Buck Necks Thickening, Rattling Working

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.

Oct. 26: Most everybody agrees the peak of the whitetail rut in the West is in mid to late November, but a few bucks haven't heard that. Reports from the weekend clearly show that rattling is working, and that some buck necks are thickening, and some does are not wanting for male companionship.

Reports of bucks with somewhat swollen necks have come from Montana and from Jim Ebel in northeastern Washington's Unit 121. "The buck was very intent on a particular doe among several Saturday morning. It ended up leaving the area with her," he said. "He was grunting while chasing."

I've been in Central Montana the past few days hunting pheasants, and 50 percent of the does our dogs pushed out of brushy draws were accompanied by bucks. Out of seven such encounters, only one group of does was accompanied by a big buck.

Despite scattered reports of big bucks with does, the females were more likely to be escorted by smaller bucks in recent days. The following hunt story mirrors several reports from West states.

Rick Barklage (above) bagged the three-point whitetail pictured above over the weekend, but it was the smaller of the bucks he spotted with Chris van Kempen (holding the kids, Hunter and Kai, in the photo). Van Kempen said they were in a tree stand at daylight when they spotted a buck at 400 yards. "We did some rattling and got his attention," van Kempen said. "He started running toward us, then stopped and went back to the three does he was with. We got down from the tree and started walking the treeline when I noticed a very large five-point accompanied by the smaller three point we ended up bagging. So overall we saw three bucks this morning and only one buck was with does the other two were still together."
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Overall Activity Status:** Deer largely nocturnal. Smaller bucks are still around does and fawns coming out right at sunset. But wet, cold weather is moving in regionwide.
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Rubbing:** In northern Idaho, more nice rubs are showing up along most trails, especially those leading to feeding areas, said said Calvin Fuller of Sandpoint Outfitters
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Fighting:** Yes, some bucks are going at it, according to reports from several states.
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Scrape Making:** Half-Hearted scrapes are showing up on major trails leading to feeding areas in northern Idaho, Fuller said. Ditto for Montana.
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Chasing:** Yes, in some areas, but no in others. Most does with fawns still unmolested.

X Factor: Rattling is working in many areas, but Ron Nail in western Montana says he thinks the best hunting for big bucks is still about 10 days off.