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.
Overall activity status: Not sure who is more geared up for this year’s rut – the deer or the hunters. Most of the hunters I’ve talked to are planning to start spending all their free time on stand from now until November, unless they’re lucky enough to fill their tag. From their early reports, deer are showing some pre-rut behavior, from scrapes appearing in the woods to some fighting reported in Nebraska and South Dakota.
Fighting:** Hunters are reporting seeing and hearing some light sparring. A few smaller bucks have been rattled in by hunters who aren’t afraid to use deer calls any time they’re in the woods. Light rattling and grunting can be effective in the pre-rut as deer are moving into new feed patterns and encountering other deer. A few bachelor herds still together in Kansas and Nebraska.
Rub making:** A few reports of rubs showing up, but very minimal.
Scrape making: Scrapes are showing up overnight in parts of Nebraska and the Dakotas. No reports of scrapes or rubs from Kansas yet, but I bet there are a few out there.
Chasing: Other than a couple of abnormal chasing reports from Nebraska and Kansas early in the season, hunters aren’t seeing any chasing going on yet.
Daytime movement:** With the full moon last week and daytime temps in the 60s and 70s, deer, especially bucks, seem to be almost exclusively nocturnal. Hunters are seeing a few does in the early morning and right at dusk, but the big bucks are waiting until the moon rises to move about.
Estrous signs: See chasing above– a couple of early estrous does seem to have triggered localized chasing in western Nebraska and south-eastern Kansas, but most does are still on feed and still have fawns with them.
X Factor: The harvest has geared up over the past week or so, as farmers are taking advantage of drier conditions to get corn out of the fields. This has triggered an increase of deer sighting in areas where agricultural operations are pushing animals out of the corn and into new cover. If you have a stand on the edge of a corn field, stay in touch with your landowner to find out when he plans to cut it– it might just be the best chance to intercept a buck that’s been hiding out since July.