Overall Activity Status: As is typical of late October, reports of rut-related behavior are spotty and localized. Several hunters note that the warm weather isn’t helping things. Nathan Oehlert of southeastern Kansas says “I haven’t really been seeing much as far as rut activity here. Could be the wind or warm weather or both, but it’s been kind of slow.” Another report from Gregory County, South Dakota, also said whitetails there didn’t seem too interested, though it was noted the mule deer were showing signs of the rut. As I reported earlier in the week, Spencer Neuharth saw some action in eastern S.D., but his hunts since then have been “kind of slow.”
Overall though, it seems we’re on the brink of things breaking out. As Brenden Mick of Twin Chimneys Outfitters in eastern Kansas stated in an e-mail on Wednesday: “Getting more mature bucks on camera. I give it a week. Everything will change.”
Hunters might not even have to wait that long, as back-to-back winter storms are currently pushing across the Plains. The first dumped 3 to 5 inches of snow here in the Panhandle of Nebraska and brought lower temperatures to the entire region. I’m predicting the weekend will jump-start the pre-rut.
Currently, most of the activity I have been hearing about consists of smaller bucks jousting, nosing does and otherwise acting like hormone-crazed teenagers. When young bucks show signs of rut, it’s a sure sign that things are about to get serious in the whitetail woods.
Fighting: I heard from two different people this week who have seen groups of bucks hanging out together. Oehlert mentioned his dad had an encounter with a big buck that was still hanging out with three other bucks. “That seems a little late for me,” he said. Ryan Reisdorff reported the muley bucks in western Nebraska are still “grouped in bachelor packs,” though he did witness “a couple of stare downs, but no horns knocking.” While Reisdorff didn’t see any whitetails on his scouting trip, but did report trail cams are “showing their bachelor groups may be breaking up.”
Rub and Scrape Making: In Kansas, Mick reports rubs are popping up everywhere this week, while hunters in the Dakotas are seeing the same thing. John Lubeck said there are a lot more rubs and scrapes in the woods where he hunts near Sioux Falls.
Daytime movement: While many of my contacts have been quiet this week, several non-hunting friends have mentioned seeing deer, either small herds of does and fawns or lone bucks, in places they haven’t seen them before. This tells me two things: deer are relocating due to the ongoing corn harvest, and bucks are starting to expand their territories. This, along with the more seasonal temperatures, should cause deer to be on their feet longer in the next few weeks.
Estrous signs: Other than a few small bucks chasing does, not much reported in terms of estrous behavior. Nebraska hunter Robert Adair did mention seeing a doe aggressively pushing off her fawn, which is a strong sign she’s approaching estrous. At Twin Chimneys, Mick says bucks are getting along with does right now. “One big happy family.”