National Report: Transition Time

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 there's one thing I've found consistent in over three decades of whitetail hunting it's this: hunters are usually more anxious for the rut to begin than the bucks are! And this time of the season exemplifies that feeling. With every fresh rub or torn up scrape that we find, a little fuel is added to the idea we harbor that the rut is underway.

But our team of rut reporters are filing reports that show the rut can take its own sweet time getting here. Dave Draper's reports show a slow start to the week, followed (just two days later) by hunter accounts of bucks chasing does. Rich Landers' western report and Brandon Ray's southwest story both prove that, while bucks are getting more active, they're still largely nocturnal. And reporter Mike Bleech tells us that rubbing and scraping have just barely begun in the northeast.

Here in the north-central region, a sudden drop in temperatures has really put bucks on their feet. I enjoyed a 3-hour morning hunt today, and saw two different bucks (neither large) out making the rounds. But on my walk back to the truck, the fresh rubs I found prove that buck activity is definitely picking up.

The takeaway? We're at a period that I call "transition time"; when bucks are morphing from their late summer/early fall patterns to the more serious business of laying down sign and seeking does. Things aren't quite ready to break wide open yet, but savvy hunters are still out there, scouting and hunting, gathering the information that will put them in the action when things get truly exciting.