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: A slow week in the woods, both in terms of deer behavior and hunter activity. Part of this is attributable to a wintry blast that moved through the area mid-week, which dumped snow in some areas and created high, dry winds in the southern part of the Great Plains. Still, some early signs of the rut are popping up here and there, leading up to what I expect to be full-blown mayhem in the next 10 days.
Fighting: Surprisingly, reports from hunters encountering fighting bucks have been few and far between and none have shown up on trail cameras my friends and I have been monitoring. Clete Frazell’s dad sat on stand in southwest Kansas and watched two big bucks for half an hour. “No fighting or checking does,” said Frazell. “Just eating.” I still wouldn’t hesitate to rattle in the woods this weekend as buck aggression should be at or near its peak for the season.
Rub/Scrape making: Outfitter Denton Rich checked in from southwest Kansas where he says new rubs and scrapes are showing up daily. Nathan Oehlert in the other corner of the Sunflower State also watched a good buck making scrapes and thrashing trees this week.
Chasing: If there’s one sign of the rut that hunters are seeing throughout the Great Plains, it’s chasing, especially among smaller bucks. Friends in just about every corner of the region reported some kind of chasing behavior. Robert Adair in southwest Nebraska says little bucks have been chasing for the past week or more, with bigger bucks joining in earlier this week.
Daytime movement: Denton Rich says bucks are waiting until last light to hit the wheat fields in his areas in search of does. In eastern Kansas, Bryan Rommel says a new deer has shown up in his hunting area, which means bucks are on their feet and cruising more and more each day. Still, most deer sighting have been at the very end of the day, which is when Trent Santero encountered this big Nebraska buck.
Estrous signs: Orphaned fawns are popping up here and there, with Nathan Oehlert saying he’s seeing more and more each day in his neck of the woods. John Lubeck says hunters in the Dakotas are seeing more does as well. Oehlert has also smelled the distinctive musk of rutting bucks on more than one occasion this past week.
X Factor: Plan on taking some half days next week as it should be one of the best times to be in the woods. The upcoming full moon could lead to more overnight activity, but cruising bucks won’t hesitate to move all day long if they get a whiff of an estrous doe. And, if you’re planning to sneak out of work early, you’re going to have to do so an hour earlier as Daylight Savings time kicks in Sunday.