Overall Activity Status: With temperatures finally starting to dip late this week, deer activity should increase. Prior to that, warmer weather had daytime activity at a minimum, though a few hunters still witnessed some rut-related behavior. Neil Davies of Hornady traveled back to South Dakota for another reservation hunt, where he reported bucks were checking does, even if they weren’t too excited about it.
“Bucks were still sniffing and running does, but it was rather passive,” said Davies. “Young ones were still at it though. Did not see any breeding or fighting.”
Fighting: Davies experience mimics that of most other hunters I talked to, none of which noted any instances of bucks sparring.
Rubs and Scrape Making: Although several of my contacts reported bucks are still out cruising in search of that last hot doe, few deer are wasting energy by laying down significant sign. A buck might scent-check a scrape, but not with the kind of frequency he would have just two weeks ago. Concentrate on hunting field edges instead, especially high-protein fields such as corn and soybean, where deer are gathering to feed as winter approaches.
Daytime movement: I’ve only heard about a couple of instances of hunters encountering deer on their feet much past sunrise, and both were caused by coyotes bumping deer. In fact, coyote activity has been on a noticeable increase in the past week, which could signify the start of a severe winter. In South Dakota, Davies attributed the lack of his success to competition from coyotes.
“Watched the coyotes pack-up and kill a buck,” said Davies via e-mail. “What coyotes haven’t killed, they’ve chased out.”
Estrous signs: Of all my contacts, only Brad Lines reported any significant rut behavior last week. He took this fine mule deer while hunting in western Kansas, and considers the rut there to be in full swing.
“I noticed a significant amount of rutting occurring with both mule deer and whitetails,” said Lines. “Frankly, it was more rut activity than I’ve observed in the last 4 years of hunting that area.”
This is definitely an anomaly from what I’ve been hearing across the northern Great Plains, but it just illustrates how localized the rut can really be. A few hot does can turn an otherwise boring day in a late-season stand into a barn-burner. You just better hope you’re ready when it happens, because it can end just as quickly as it begins.