Draper: Tags Filled as Rut Peaks

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.

After getting blanked in Illinois by letting a few deer pass I maybe shouldn't have, I decided to shoot the first wider-than-his-ears 4x4 during Nebraska's rifle season. Well, last Thursday, just an hour or so into my first day on stand, I punched my tag on this guy (that's me in the orange Hornady hat). He happened to be the fifth buck I saw that morning and, like two other bucks before him, came into my box blind with his nose in the air, sniffing at the estrous doe urine I had sprayed into the air from my stand.

In fact, all of the bucks I saw that morning, and the several more I saw over the next couple days as I sat on stand filling doe tags, exhibited some sort of rut behavior, from lip-curling, to dogging does, to cruising with their nose on the ground. What I called a "weird" rut a week ago has turned into that full-blown mayhem we've all been waiting for, at least in south-central Nebraska, where I was hunting.

In other areas of the Great Plains, things are in flux. Down south in Kansas, big bucks have disappeared from the radar as they lockdown with estrous does, as Rut Reporter Scott Bestul reported in his Kansas-hunt recap last Friday. One of my Kansas contacts--Clete Frazell--did have some success last week, tagging the cool looking buck here that was out cruising:

I started the morning in a stand that was good for a SE wind and planned on staying put until the wind switched. Shortly after eight a.m., I felt the breeze blowing from the NW and thought it was time to make a move. I was planning a hang and hunt set-up on the other end of the property in an area that I had purposely stayed out of until I knew the bucks were cruising and chasing, that was perfect for the NW wind. By 9:15 I was perched 20 feet high after a somewhat noisy set-up when the wind switched back to the SE and I was badmouthing weather.com under my breath and thinking about leaving and returning that afternoon. I thought, "I have already been busted if anything is downwind, so I might as well just stay put til at least 10:30 or 11:00 a.m."

At 9:45 I saw a mature buck 40 yards out cruising, with his nose to the ground in some heavy timber and couldn't get a clear look, but from what I saw I thought I would let him walk if he came into range. A few minutes later he was out of sight and gone. Fifteen to twenty minutes later I spotted movement through the cedars and realized he was now at 30 yards. He turned broadside and I saw at least three kickers on his left antler and made my mind up that if he came to an opening I would shoot this deer. After 10 minutes of eating acorns, he worked his way into a narrow shooting lane and I mouth grunted at him. He stopped in the lane and I released my arrow hitting the intended mark.

Congratulations Clete. As both our hunts illustrate, the rut is still on, despite rumors to the contrary. And, any bucks that have been on lockdown should reemerge soon looking for remaining estrous does, so get out there and good luck!