Licata: A Report from the Deer Woods on the Best Day of the Rut

A guest Rut Reporter post from Editor Anthony Licata:

I'm bowhunting this week with Richardson Farms Outfitters in Brown County in southern Illinois, right in heart of one of the nation's best big buck regions.

Tim Richardson reported that rutting activity really picked up last week when a cold front moved in. All of a sudden his hunters and guides reported seeing a lot of big boys on the move.

This weekend the weather switched to a south wind and warmer temperatures, but with the rut cranking, the hope is activity will stay strong all day.

Yesterday, the F&S best day of the rut, was my first in a stand here, and action was great.

I was in an oak in a timbered creekbottom on the edge of a bedding area and a cut cornfield. Several draws and ridges came together here, making it a perfect pinch point.

Right after the sun cleared the horizon, a 2-year-old 6-point that was about 120 inches chased a doe from the brush and into this grassy semi-open edge next the cut field. She didn't want to go into the open, and the buck kept her pinned between him and the field. Every time she tried to get around him and back to the brush, he let out a growling grunt and ran parallel to her and turned her back, like a cutting horse. She would browse between escape attempts, but he hardly took his eyes off her. Every once in awhile, for no reason I could see, he'd grunt and charge right at her as she fed, and then stop short.

This went on for about a half hour within 50 yards of my stand. There are bigger bucks on this property (it is a 140 minimum), but as I watched this deer-- the sun shining off him, his neck swollen, steam pluming from his nostrils, moisture dripping from his open mouth-- I couldn't help but think that no matter the score of the antlers, a rutting whitetail buck is an impressive animal.

Eventually a slightly bigger 8-point came from the woods and walked right under my stand and into this little drama. When the first buck turned to face the intruder, the doe made her move. The first buck sprinted after her into the brush, the second trotted after them. Five minutes later I heard antlers smack and clack and the heavy hoofbeats of the bucks fighting.

It only lasted about 10 seconds, and I wish I could've seen who won, but my money was on the six. He was an animal that would not be denied.

When the rut is cranking like this, you can see a buck at any time. I stayed in the stand all day, and there was only one hour (between 2:15 and 3:15) when I was not seeing deer. I ended up seeing 24 does and five bucks, although no shooters. I did however see that six again; he was chasing that same doe. This time she took off across the cut corn, the buck loping open-mouthed behind her.

There are 8 hunters in camp, and everyone saw deer. Ben Maki, of Mossy Oak, rattled in a wide 140. He saw the buck running an open ridge 250 yards away, he hit the horns and the buck turned and charged in. Maki said he barely had time to drop the horns and grab the bow before he made the shot.

Now is the time to rattle and grunt to challnge bucks that are looking for does.

Tomorrow should be good too. If you can get out, sit as long as you can and don't be afraid to get aggressive.