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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.

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Although Nebraska’s archery opener was last Thursday, I didn’t make it out until this morning. And then it was only for a quick hunt that turned out to be more just a walk in the woods. From all accounts I haven’t been missing much, as deer activity has been very minimal. A few hunters have been punching their antlerless tags, but no reports of big bucks on the ground yet.

This morning’s hunt did give us a chance to swap cards from some of the cameras that have been out in the field. Activity was minimal, but the cameras did capture at least one buck that cruised through last night. Not sure what’s going on with his left G2, but it looks like it might still hold some velvet. From the reports I’ve been getting from hunters and biologists, he just might be the last buck on the Plains that isn’t 100 percent hard-horned.

I also saw a shaky cellphone video taken just this morning of two mule deer tickling antlers in the north-central part of Nebraska. Surely this is some playful jousting among bucks that have been hanging out together all summer, but it’s a good sign of things to come. I expect bachelor groups to start breaking up any day now, if they haven’t already in some areas.

Interestingly, there have been two deer killed by vehicles on the road near my house, both does – one whitetail and one mule deer, both hit late at night. This particular area is not known for its deer density and deer-vehicle collisions on this stretch of highway are relatively rare. Not sure if this is due to deer shifting their focus to high-protein food sources, deer ranging further for water or just happenstance. In any case, it’s worth exercising extra caution on the roads now as deer movement increases.

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