Rut-Report, Field and Stream Rut Reporters, Whitetails, Big Buck, Scott Bestul

Overall Activity: It has been a mixed bag in the region lately. While rut activity has subsided, action around food sources has be good to excellent. My neighbor saw the giant 5-1/2-year-old 10-point in the above photo feeding in a cut corn field a full two hours before dark on a recent afternoon hunt. Though he couldn’t get a shot, I found it fascinating that this monster was active so early in the day. The rut must have been hard on him, and he felt the need to refuel.

Fighting: No reports of serious fighting lately, though some brawls could break out as we transition into secondary breeding, about a week from now. I did watch two young bucks spar as they entered a food plot last weekend, but my trail-cam pics revealed that these are a pair of “buddy bucks” that have traveled together all fall. Their brief sparring session is probably a part of their normal routine.

Rub-Making: On an afternoon scouting session a few days ago, I did spot one fresh rub on a decent-sized sapling. The rub was within 30 yards of a brassica food plot.

Scraping: I’ve checked a bunch of prime scrapes this week and found that only a few contained any sign of fresh activity. However, I did find two new small scrapes near food sources that appeared to be worked within the week.

Chasing: The bucks that I’ve seen on recent hunts have virtually ignored does and gone straight to the nearby groceries. Of course, this late in the season, food triumphs breeding activity. Within a week, the second wave of unbred does will come into estrous, and I expect to see more bucks interested in does again.

Estrous Signs: None to report.

X-Factor: Two major forces will be at work this week, weather and pressure. Where gun seasons are open or have just wrapped up (Iowa and Illinois, for example) hunting pressure will affect where, when, and how whitetails move; focus your effort in or near thick-cover areas. Weather can be an even bigger factor now; with much of the region smack in the middle of post rut, bucks are hungry. But mild weather now can make bucks lazy about feeding. If that’s the case, move off the food and set up closer to known bedding areas to catch a buck on his feet before dark.