Bestul: The Ironic Rut

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.

The photos here shows a fine mature whitetail that decided to take a morning bath in the Upper Mississippi River...amidst a duck hunter's decoys, of all things. The waterfowler watched in amazement as this dandy buck trotted into the water, swam out about 150 yards, then returned to shore.

I love these photos for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is this; whitetail bucks--especially older animals--are largely an unpredictable lot. They do all kinds of crazy things that defy their general character as the light-shy, uber-intelligent, always-wary critters we adore. Not long ago, a fellow writer and whitetail fanatic and I were discussing this. He ended the conversation by saying "we've been raised to think we're hunting Super Buck, and for the most part, it's simply not true."

I think this is especially important to remember now, with the rut dwindling in most areas of the region. It's tempting to adopt a defeatist attitude, to believe that our best--or only--shot at a monster is largely over. Don't give in to it. The buck of your dreams could visit a field edge at midday. He could chase a young doe past your stand an hour before dark. He could decide to go for a walkabout for no other reason than he feels like stretching his muscles. Heck, he might even opt for a little swim…

Of course we will never be able to capitalize on any of these weird behaviors if we are not in the woods. So gear up, dress up, and get out there. Crawl up a ladder stand, shinny into a shooting house, still hunt some cedars. But go. Who knows? Maybe your favorite duck blind is the place to be. You'll never know unless you're out there.