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.
Nov. 24:** Hunters have much to be thankful for, especially if they were able to be out whitetail hunting in the West during the past few days.
“The rut in southwestern Montana is at its peak!” said Montana Whitetails outfitter Keith Miller, with no attempt to downplay his enthusiasm. “Bucks are breeding does right now and the action is really hot!” he added.
Yes, he was referring to both the deer and the hunting, as illustrated in the photo above and the fine buck taken by bowhunter Adam Flod of Pennsylvania.
Bucks are on their feet, either tending does or searching for another estrous doe. That makes hunting near bedding areas or food sources — where the does are — your best opportunity for success, he said.
For the first time in the season, the reports from one end of Montana to the other, and much of the rest of the West have been virtually the same:
The rut peaked this past weekend and many nice bucks were taken in the Kalispell area, said bowhunter Ron Nail. “There’s still a lot of deer movement going on; bucks still chasing the does.”
But hunting these last few days of Montana’s season, which closes Sunday, is welcoming only the very toughest hunters, with high winds in some areas and temperatures far below zero.
But as the weather eases, hunters who still have seasons should find good deer movement–and success.
Eastern Washington:** The rut has been in full swing up to Tuesday and the onset of an arctic blast that put a chill on everything, including rut observing and reporting.
It’s not a slam dunk to bag a buck in the rut, since the does still have some common sense, noted Hal Meenach. But when a doe has been spotted the last few days, there’s been a good chance a buck would follow immediately.
I’ve had dozens of reports of bucks standing in roads and lying down in the open since the rifle deer season ended on Friday.
“Without an alert doe, many more would not make the cut,” Meenach said.
X Factor:** A long-time deer observer, Meenach believes the height of the rut kicked in a little earlier than normal this year. Possible explanations include lower numbers of deer (from past winterkill) and much improved feeding conditions.
With stellar growing conditions from the wet spring through a gentle summer and mild fall, “the females are in better condition to breed,” he said.