Rut Is Past Peak, but Breeding Is Far From Over

Overall activity status: Deer movement has been affected by two main factors this week. The primary influence is pressure from … Continued

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Overall activity status: Deer movement has been affected by two main factors this week. The primary influence is pressure from firearms hunters in states where the gun season is open. Second, a significant warm-up hit the region mid- to late-week, causing temps to climb into the 60s in some areas. This negatively impacted deer movement.

Fighting: I’ve heard no reports of fights breaking out, though the evidence that such fights have occurred are there; many hunters are reporting bucks with broken tines and beams.

Rub making: Some rubbing is occurring, but we’re definitely past the peak of this behavior in most areas. Some rubs will be started (or reworked) as mature bucks start traveling again, looking for does.

Scrape making: Scrape making is declining as the breeding peak wanes. Localized scrapes will appear in the next week as younger (or previously unbred) does come into estrous.

Chasing: Minnesota bowhunter Billy Jerowski, above, shot this outstanding 8-point buck late last week, as it pursued a doe during the mid-morning hours. Unsure of his shot, Jerowski remained in his stand for over an hour, afraid that he’d disturb the buck if it was bedded nearby. During his wait, Jerowski watched four other bucks follow the doe’s path. Obviously, this was an estrous female that had attracted a lot of attention from area bucks. By the way, Jerowski’s shot was better than he’d hoped; he found his buck after a short track job.

Daytime movement: I’ve received highly variable reports of daytime movement. In areas where firearms pressure has been intense, most whitetails are not moving well unless pushed. However, I’ve talked to hunters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri–all states in the midst of gun season–that have seen decent-to-good natural deer movement. The common factor seems to be a relative lack of human pressure in the immediate area.

Estrous signs: The rut is definitely tailing down across much of the region. However, there’s no question some does are still coming into heat, as evidenced by occasional reports of bucks trailing or chasing does. I expect to see rutting behavior at least through the second week of December.

X-Factor: Weather. Many of the region’s whitetails have been through the wringer after weeks of bowhunting and, in most cases, at least one firearms season. How quickly they return to normal feeding behavior will, in my experience, be dictated by weather. If we see significant cold and at least some snow, deer will quickly resume good movement to and from food sources during daylight hours. If, however, temps remain mild and snow systems avoid the area, whitetails will restrict their feeding sessions to the night hours.