Rut-Report, Rut Reporters 2015, Whitetails, Big Buck, Dave Olson, Rut Activity, Scott Bestul

I don’t know what the rest of the deer season holds, but it’s going to be tough to beat the action we’ve had around here over the last few days. The highlight occurred just yesterday, when my neighbor and hunting buddy Dave Olson, pictured above, shot a buck well known in our neighborhood as “Dave Hurteau Jr.” (It’s complicated.)

The 4-1/2-year-old buck was a regular on trail cams last fall, and Olson and mutual friend Alan Mote combined to find his sheds last spring. When DH Jr. started showing up on Olson’s cameras in daylight this fall, it seemed only a matter of time until my friend got a shot at the buck. And while the hunt is exciting on a personal level, it’s also indicative of the sudden and dramatic uptick in buck activity in the region of late.

Overall Activity: Though the weather has been unsettled, with high winds and rain, buck activity has been steadily increasing. Cooling temperatures have spurred does to really focus on the highest-quality food sources (mainly ag fields and oaks), and these seem to be the spots of highest deer activity right now.
Fighting: No reports of mega-buck brawls, but skirmishes at food sources have been fairly common.

Rub-Making: Bucks are hitting established signpost rubs, as well as making fresh ones. On a recent morning bowhunt, I watched a frustrated yearling 8-point make a fresh rub as he waited for a non-estrous doe to show some sign she was interested in his advances. (She wasn’t.)

Scraping: With bucks cruising seriously for the first estrous does, they’re spending little time creating new scrapes. However, they are hitting established scrapes frequently, quickly checking to see if there are any ready mates about. Since they don’t spend a lot of time actually working the scrape, this creates the illusion that scrapes have “gone dead,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Bucks are still actively checking scrapes for purposes of communicating with other deer; they’re just hurrying on past the scrape to look for a real doe.

Chasing: The widespread chaos of the chase phase has not yet begun, though young bucks are seriously shadowing does.

Estrous Signs: My friend and fellow Minnesota bowhunter Bill Jerowski sat most of the day on Tuesday. He got out of his stand in midafternoon to help his brother track a buck he’d shot. “I crawled down out of the tree about 2 p.m. and hadn’ t walked very far before looking up to see a nice buck staring at me. Then a doe stood up. I think he’d been standing there all day, watching that doe, though I never saw them come in.” To me this means that a few does are indeed coming into estrous a little early, and, as always, the mature bucks are the first to take advantage.

X-Factor: Weather. Significant winds, rain, and the region’s first snow flurries hit the upper Midwest today. In my view, cold fall precipitation is less likely to affect rutting behavior compared to high winds. Deer in this region are apt to lie on their bellies in high wind during daylight hours, but resume high activity after dark. If the weather stabilizes in the next few days, expect excellent hunting. If the high winds persist, hunters will have to set up tight to bedding cover to get in on the best daytime rutting action.