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.
It’s not often I can post a picture of a hunter who shares my name, so I’m jumping at the opportunity. The smiling man on the left of this photo is my cousin Scott Bestul, posing with a great buck he killed on the opening day of the Wisconsin firearms season. Next to him is his brother Stuart, who also tagged a fine whitetail. These guys have been some of my favorite hunting partners since I began chasing whitetails in the early 1970’s. I learned to deer hunt on the property owned by this branch of our family tree, and count those memories as precious indeed. Congrats guys!
On to rut reporting: As noted in previous posts, firearms seasons are open across much of the region and some great bucks are being harvested. Peak rutting behavior is slightly later this year than normal, and gun hunters have been capitalizing. My cousin Scott’s buck, for example, was one of a number of deer that he saw on that first morning. The whitetails moved toward him as they escaped hunters on neighboring properties, but the buck Scott killed was intent on following a particular doe. The most likely scenario was that the doe was in (or near) estrus and once the immediate danger was past, the buck was not going to lose track of her. The doe stayed in the area just long enough that Scott was able to get a shot.
In neighboring Michigan, reports from the gun season seem positive and one contact seemed to think hunters were seeing more deer because the DNR’s moratorium on baiting had been lifted. Whatever the cause, the mood seemed to be positive. The first Illinois shotgun season just ended, and I’ve already received some photos of the giant deer that are synonymous with that state. I’ll post them in the weeks ahead as I get the green light to do so.
I talked to one of my favorite Iowa contacts just last evening, who’d missed a 170-class ten-point with a bow that very morning. Despite the whiff, Steve was in a great mood and talked at length of the thrill he felt when such a giant responded to rattling antlers. “The rut is still happening here, but its definitely winding down,” he reported. “When a doe comes into estrous, the only bucks left with the energy to chase her and fight off other bucks are the big ones.” Sounds like an exciting time to hunt!