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.
Nov. 9–Overall Activity Status:** Depending on where you hunt, breeding activity is on a teeter-totter; in some areas, many does are in estrus and are being tended by mature bucks. In others, this phase is a mere days away, which results in great hunting (meaning lots of buck sightings).
Fighting: This is the time of year when some serious fights occur, as bucks wander into strange territory in search of does, then bump into bucks they don’t know. A southern Iowa hunter called yesterday to report a monster buck limping badly. When he grunted to the buck, the deer tucked his tail and ran…apparently he was not feeling like another brawl!
Rub making:** Leveling off from previous weeks, when bucks were laying down some serious sign. Right now it’s all about breeding in most areas, though bucks will rub as they travel in search of does.
Scrape making: Like rubs, scrapes are tapering off. This is a good news/bad news scenario; the majority of scrapes that were “hot” 10 days ago are gathering leaves right now. But when you find a fresh scrape now, it means there’s a very active buck in the immediate area. I helped a hunting buddy kill a fine buck late last week when I stumbled into a series of fresh scrapes on a remote ridge. We hung a stand on that sign the next morning, and two hours into the hunt Mark Stimets killed the great 10-point pictured above.
Chasing: Again, chasing activity is dependent on exactly what’s happening with breeding in your area. One hunter from northern Missouri told me yesterday that bucks were dogging does in a big way, while a friend in central Illinois said that most bigger deer on his hunting ground were with does, and the young bucks were too worn out to run!
Daytime Movement: Interesting reports here. Warmer weather (afternoon temps in the region are pushing 60 and beyond) has many hunters thinking deer movement is a dawn-or-dusk affair…yet the majority of the mature buck movement I’ve seen in my area is happening mid-morning. Unless it gets severely warm, I still believe from 10 a.m. on is golden.
Estrous signs: Great report from a friend hunting this morning. He watched a fawn come past his stand, traveling solo. Then, several minutes later, he spotted a mature doe nearby. The fawn approached the doe (obviously her mother) and was driven off. The doe wandered off and, playing a hunch, my buddy slipped out of his stand and followed, sneaking quietly through a grassy CRP field. Within minutes Dean spotted the doe on a small ridge, and a huge buck standing slightly beyond. Kudos to my friend for reading this behavior and slipping up on a giant buck….which he unfortunately missed!
X-Factor:** We’re at or near peak breeding in many areas in the region, and hunting has become a patience game. When the excitement of the seek and chase phases wanes in your area, it can take some determination to stick with things. But patience is your ally now; the biggest bucks in the area will remain with a doe for only a couple days…Then they’re off to the races again. Stick in the stand (particularly in funnels that connect blocks of cover) and you could be rewarded with a monster!