Bestul: Falling Giants

Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream's Whitetails columnist and writes for the website's Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.

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Some very big whitetails have been tagged in the region since I filed my last report, including the Hawkeye State monster shown above. This 170-class, 10-point features a great drop tine and was shot by bowhunter Andy Schrock in southern Iowa. The hunter in this photo is not Mr. Schrock, who is a young Amish man who cannot be featured in a photograph. Andy was kind enough to allow his friend Eric Stuart to pose with the buck so I could share it with you. Eric is a guide at Tri-State Outfitting, and he helped Andy recover this fantastic trophy. Congrats to Andy!

I've received several reports of very large bucks being taken across the region this week, including a 190-class Wisconsin buck and an Illinois nontypical that should net in the low 230s. I'm on the hunt for pictures of these deer as we speak. Minnesota's firearm season has been open for over a week and I'm sure some truly big bucks were taken. The Gopher State ranked high in B&C listings last year, and I expect that trend won't weaken. Missouri's gun hunt also began recently, and the Show Me state should continue its reputation as a monster buck producer this fall.

I've received mixed reports of rutting behavior this week. Several Iowa and Missouri hunters have reported outstanding action; one friend texted me from his tree stand that he had rattled in four bucks in less than a half-hour on an afternoon hunt, including a 160-class giant that he couldn't "seal the deal" on!

Meanwhile, southern Wisconsin and Illinois hunters have reported seeing mature bucks tending does, and one contact came home from a hunt only to watch a 3-1/2 year old buck mounting a doe in his neighbor's front lawn! I expect some reports of slow hunting in the next few days as more bucks find estrous does and the dreaded "lockdown" begins. This phase can result in reduced deer activity for a few days, but for those who can tough things out, more big-buck activity will soon occur.

I'm currently on a Kansas bowhunt and have seen some great chasing activity. I'm focusing much of my effort on mule deer and passed a shot on a fine buck this evening; the landowner had described the buck in detail to me the day before and suggested that, though a tempting target, the buck had the right stuff to be a true giant next year if he survives. I'm all about keeping my landowners happy, so I gave the buck a "get out of jail free" card, and will continue looking!