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.
Oct. 25–Overall Activity Status: Deer sightings have greatly increased this past week, with lots of little bucks cruising the woods. Most of the big buck reports are game cam pics taken at night, which isn’t surprising coming off a full moon. While the weather has been warm, we’re starting into an unstable pattern. Rain and a few nights of frost has made it feel more like fall. Forecasters are calling for a hard frost this week across much of the region, with the possibility of snow in some areas. High winds should strip much of the foliage off the trees as well, which will help with deer sightings.
Fighting:** Smaller bucks are acting tough, with lots of sparring going on from North Dakota to Kansas. Kurt Kaiser reported hearing a big fight in the Cornhusker State last week in the early afternoon, while John Lubeck says hunters have had some success rattling in smaller bucks in South Dakota.
Rub making:** Pre-rut is on as bucks are ranging farther from their summer core areas, creating lots of signposts along the way. Distinct rub lines are being formed and hunters are starting to see more activity where there previously had been none.
Scrape making: Scrapes are hot right now as more bucks are out and about, especially for deer that have been displaced by the early corn harvest. These bucks are marking more and more territory and game cameras are capturing lots of scrape-making, particularly overnight. This past weekend, Phil Francone watched small bucks licking and rubbing overhead branches, a sure sign big bucks aren’t far behind.
Chasing: While most of the chasing going on has been little bucks horsing around, Kurt Grove passed along a second-hand report from Kansas of a 160″ whopper running a doe. She could be part of that 1 percent group that goes into estrus in early October.
Daytime movement:** Afternoon activity has picked up, particularly on days the temperature has stayed below 70 degrees, which hasn’t been many. Early last week, I did see a few does filter out of some standing corn into an alfalfa field well before dark. Rob Burnett of Sidney, Neb., took this nice 10 pointer in the late afternoon earlier this month and his hunting partner, who shall remain nameless, missed another big 10 on an afternoon hunt.
Estrous signs:** Does are still tolerating the presence of spikes, forkies and other small bucks, which leads me to believe no estrous activity has started. There are exceptions however, as evidenced by reports of chasing and other early rut activity.
X Factor: Every hunter I’ve talked to from all corners of the Great Plains have commented on how the early harvest is affecting or will affect their hunts this year. It seems everyone is salivating at the prospect of big bucks pushed out of the corn and into the deer woods. Burnett’s is the first of many bucks I predict we’ll see taken in areas bordering cut corn.