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: Although we’re definitely fast to the post-rut phase of the year, not all is quiet on the Great Plains right now. There are still a few sporadic reports of rut-like behavior being observed by hunters who are working to fill a late-season tag, but by and large, the big bucks that have shown themselves seem to be more content on recovery than rutting. Some hunters are reporting large groups of does coming together as deer start to yard up for the winter. From southeastern Kansas, Clete Frazell checked in to say a buddy had killed a good deer there on Monday. “The buck was hanging with a group of 7 does. They all came to feed on corn together.”
Fighting/Rub/Scrape making: You’d be hard-pressed to find a buck on the Great Plains that has either the energy or the inclination to pick a fight. Same goes for rubbing, scraping and other rut-related behavior, as the deer tend to be keying on high-protein food sources in the face of a long winter.
Chasing: One of the few bright spots I have heard came from Brad Lines, who ate his Nebraska rifle tag, then traveled to Kansas to tag this trophy last week. “Whitetails and mule deer were still very actively rutting in Kansas November 30-December 2. On Nov 30, I shot this whitetail that was glued to a hot doe all morning. He tried to tend her a couple times, but she wouldn’t stand. I saw several other whitetails and mule deer doing the same thing during the course of the hunt. “
Daytime Movement: A cold front earlier in the week that brought sub-freezing temperatures and snow to the region seems to have prodded deer onto their feet at all times during the day. Hunters reported seeing several bucks and does, all with one thing on their mind – food.
Estrous signs: Other than Brad Lines’ hunt in Kansas, not much has been reported in the way of estrous activity. Lines did report seeing a buck dogging hot mule deer doe the day after he shot his Kansas trophy. “My buddy shot a 6×8 mulie on December 1 in the 190” class that was super rutty. Directly before the shot, the does busted us and started to “bounce” off, but the buck was still glued to a hot doe; he even saw us and went right back to chasing her. There seemed to be a lot of does that were cycling later than usual there.”
X Factor: Just because the rut is over doesn’t mean there aren’t deer up and moving. Our Kansas die-hard Nathan Oehlert has still been out hunting and reports seeing several large bucks, all of them on the feed. This predictable pattern is a great time of year to take a big buck that survived the onslaught of hunters that were out in November. Get out now and you’ll probably have the fields to yourself.