_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.
Nov. 26–Overall Activity Status: We’re falling off the backside of the peak rut throughout most of the Great Plains region, which makes activity hard to pinpoint. Things are literally day to day and area to area as bucks come out of lockdown and hit the road looking for estrous does that have yet to be bred. Matt Highby, hunting with Mule Creek Outfitters (620-770-1257; firstname.lastname@example.org) in southern Kansas checked in with this report: “I saw 8 bucks over 150 in four sits. The bucks were in full blown rut Friday night and Saturday.”
Fighting:** I’m getting lots of reports of busted-up bucks from Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Smaller bucks that have worn themselves out are probably not up for a fight, but bigger bucks may still be good for a scrap or two if they encounter other bucks out cruising. Still, this is a time for breeding, not fighting, so I wouldn’t expect any epic battles to occur.
Rub making: Other than a few smaller bucks feinting with trees, there have been no reports of actual rub activity for a week or two.
Scrape making: Deer don’t seem to be wasting their time opening up new scrapes, but hunters in the woods last week did encounter some existing scrapes that still appeared active, which isn’t surprising as both bucks and unbred does hit these spots looking for a potential mate.
Chasing:** Late last week, I watched a good six-point buck nosing a doe through a pasture here in the Nebraska Panhandle at last light. He didn’t let her get more than two steps away, so I’m sure they were locked up before nightfall. The full moon kept deer active at all hours and Highby reported “Sunday the fog lifted in the middle of the night and bucks heading back to the woods seemed exhausted from running all night.”
Daytime movement: The full moon, however, didn’t seem to limit daytime activity as both bucks and does were seen out and about while the sun was up, with activity particularly heavy in the afternoons. Before Highby hit Kansas for the weekend, he reported from Nebraska: “Bucks were on the move shortly after lunch and moved great all afternoon and evening. The bucks are in search of more does as I had the same bucks on game cameras several miles apart in the same night.”
Estrous signs: There are still more than a few does yet to be bred and they’re showing up on camera at scrapes. As the bell struck on the end of Nebraska’s rifle season Sunday night, I saw large doe with two different size yearlings, indicating to me she adopted (or was adopted by) an orphan who had been kicked off his mama.
X Factor: I seem to be hearing about more busted-up bucks than normal, which means while you may encounter the buck of a lifetime as deer come out of rut, look closely for he may not have a full set of horns. Hard as it may be, it’s good to let those bucks walk in the hopes you’ll encounter them next year when they’re bigger and intact.