Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela’s and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.
With any real serious deer rut activity still a few weeks away, I didn’t want you all to forget about the other ruts that are going on around the region right now, so I’m submitting this bonus Great Plains report about elk and pronghorn action.
I spent the weekend guiding Ron Rousey on an elk hunt here in Nebraska, where he was lucky enough to draw a once-in-a-lifetime tag. It sounds a bit weird, but the Cornhusker State has a healthy and growing elk herd– enough so that there are actually seven different hunting units across the state.
We hunted the North Platte unit, and spent 2 ½ days overlooking cornfields where big bulls take up residence in the late summer and early fall. The elk here were rutting hard, with bulls fighting, chasing and bugling. Every morning we heard bugles and on Monday, watched seven different bulls posture and chase in one field of sudex – a tall sudan grass-sorghum hybrid crop. I called this bull into about 50 yards with a mix of bugles and estrous cow calls, but with two other bigger bulls in the background, Ron smartly, but not without some difficulty, held his fire and killed a nice 6×6 later in the morning.
Antelope are also in full rut. A small herd that visits a waterhole just south of my house is being run hard by a buck, who doesn’t let the does stray far from his sight. Just across the border in Wyoming, the pronghorns are also chasing and fighting. Cabela’s optics manager Matt Highby sent me this picture of a great buck he took over the weekend that registers a jaw-dropping green score of 87 inches.
So, just because deer aren’t thinking about breeding, doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to witness some other rut-related behavior, and if you’re willing to climb out of the tree or are lucky enough to hold an elk or antelope tag, go hunting during the rut.