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.
Dec. 9:** Nebraska’s muzzleloader season has been open for a week, but yesterday afternoon was the first time I’ve been able to get into the field since the opener. In fact, it was the first time I’d been out since I’d eaten my rifle tag on the last day of the general deer season three weeks before. If I was hoping for redemption, I didn’t get it (yet), but I was happy to see a tall 4 x 4 that had gone missing. I figured he hadn’t made it through rifle season, but there he was, bedded on a low bench about 600 yards from where I’d last seen him in late October.


And like the last time I saw him, he wasn’t far from a doe. She was bedded just a few yards away and at first I thought the old boy had locked down with a late estrous doe. However, after a lot of glassing I realized those two were just part of a larger group of deer bedded along that particular coulee. The mild weather kept them bedded until just before dark when the buck stood, nosed the doe up and then followed her to the rest of the group. Interestingly enough, there were no other bucks in the group. The only other buck I saw was a lone forkhorn that I bumped from his mid-day bed.

Within the next week or so, I expect those deer with gather with a few other small groups in the areas as they start to form their winter herds. On this particular property, I typically see large herds–bucks, does, fawns–all together starting in mid-December.

That’s what my friend John Lubeck is seeing in southeast South Dakota this week. He went out last Saturday to scout a local herd and reported the deer there are getting back to a routine and starting to group up.

“Saw this very nice large buck (pictured) come across the road to join the other deer in the field,” said Lubeck. “He did not chase any of the does or bother the other bucks, just came to join in on the feast I guess.”

In North Dakota, the DNR is reporting deer are still somewhat active for a late rut, although they’re starting to bunch up for winter.

Reports from the Kansas rifle season have hunters seeing lots of busted up bucks, an abnormal amount according to a couple of my contacts in the southern half of the Sunflower State. Whether that’s due to diet deficiency, drought or just an overly aggressive rut, I don’t know, but if those busted bucks make it through to the winter, next season could be a Booner year in Kansas.