If you ever need proof that the rut proceeds in haphazard fashion–with dramatic regional variations–consider this: Three hunting buddies just returned from a trip to southern Iowa/northern Missouri. The mature bucks there were lollygagging around, their desire for females barely competing with their interest in acorns. Buck activity was decent enough that they tagged three mature animals, but the conclusion was clear: the rut in that area was days away from cranking.

Meanwhile, my Wisconsin and Illinois contacts report borderline craziness, with spectacular chasing and even the occasional fight breaking out. One friend emailed yesterday feeling panicky, knowing the frenetic pace would soon result in the lockdown phase, when most mature bucks are breeding does and moving little.

In my little corner of the world, the rut is a muddled affair. I’ve witnessed lone, cruising bucks that seem to be looking for their first doe, and virtually zero chasing…an observation backed by friends who’ve been logging serious stand-time lately. The overall impression is that the best is yet to come, no matter how badly we look at our calendar and think “it should be happening.”

And yet…YET…This morning while driving around, I saw a nice 10-point buck nosing a doe around a cut bean field. With no other deer around, I felt the doe must be in heat and the buck had pushed her into an area with no competition. Three hours later I drove past the same spot and, sure enough, the pair was still there, now bedded. Yet another check in the evening proved the happy couple hadn’t moved 100 yards in the 10 hours since I’d first spotted them. Classic lockdown behavior, a dollop of passion in a sea of lukewarm romance.

You might be wondering “Why is Bestul driving around in his truck, when he should be in the woods?” My explanation is as happy as it is simple: I shot a nice 10-point on Wednesday morning, in a little bowl of timber I’d scouted last spring. For a look at this buck, check out this video clip, masterfully shot by my hunting partner, fellow Whitetail 365 blogger, and editor, Dave Hurteau.