Whitetail Hunting photo

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.


If the reports from around the country have a common theme this week, it’s this: Early fall heat waves– which seem to have visited most of whitetail range– can impact deer activity in a big way. Of course, that doesn’t mean a little warm weather should keep us out of the field. The Iowa hunter pictured above bagged this obscenely wide trophy during the first week of the Hawkeye State’s archery season, which saw daytime temps well into the 70s. I’ve been unable to gather many details on this gorgeous buck, but I’m still snooping!

Back to the heat. South central reporter Brandon Ray used the success of his friend Ronnie Parsons to illustrate the important point that whitetails still move when it’s warm– though that activity might be limited to the early morning hours or last slivers of daylight in the evening. Parsons used his knowledge of local deer behavior and location to tag his 33rd P&Y buck in the Texas heat. Congrats to Ronnie!

Northeastern reporter Mike Bleech has kept up his scouting vigils and has received reports of bucks engaged in light sparring activity. This is, in my experience, classic early-October behavior, especially among bucks who’ve spent the summer in bachelor groups. Though few of these skirmishes turn serious, bucks fueled by rising testosterone levels can’t resist the urge to flex their muscle once in awhile. It’s no different than boys on a playground; they don’t beat each other up very often, but small displays of machismo play a vital role in deciding who’s boss. These little skirmishes are Nature’s method for preventing deadly fights… and also prove the worth of light rattling sessions, even though the rut is weeks away.

David Draper’s report of an almost-successful Nebraska hunt proves that even these sparring sessions can turn serious when conditions and herd dynamics line up. I’m also convinced that a small percentage of does come into estrus several weeks before their herd-mates, and when that happens, bucks can start acting pretty randy. With just a slice more luck, the hunter in Draper’s account could have benefited from some of this early rut action!