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.
Three words can summarize the national rut picture now: It’s go time. Though the distinct phase of the rut might vary slightly from region to region, our reporters seem to be in agreement on this much; the time to be in the woods is right now. Perhaps Will Brantley said it best when he advised us to either take vacation or skip work right now.
Brantley–as well as northeast reporter Mike Bleech’s deer scout trucker Dave–notes the ever-increasing number of car-killed deer in the region. This is (sadly) one of the peak indicators that the rut’s seeking/chase phases are in high gear. Interestingly, bucks are not the only victims of these collisions, as does are often badgered so diligently by bucks that they abandon caution and simply seek to out-run their pursuers. Naturally, some of their escape routes carry them into harm’s way. Car kills don’t seem to have much to do with hunting, but they do serve as a highly visible reminder; when they start occurring in your area, you need to start hunting!
Brantley also picked up on another tell-tale rut indicator; does chasing their fawns away. This is a classic move of the pre-estrous doe, and an obvious sign that an adult doe is not feeling motherly. You don’t need to witness this to know that it’s happening, however. As soon as you seen fawns (especially button bucks, as they seem to travel more widely) that are walking around alone, you’ll know that Mom has given them the boot and is ready to seek antlered company.
On a broad, national scale, the rut seems to be in the seeking or chasing phase right now. Northeast reporter Bleech reports that Maryland hunters are seeing fresh rubs and scrapes appear daily, mainly on travel routes between bed and feed. Bucks are badgering does almost everywhere, though the severity of the harassment depends on whether that first handful of does have entered estrous.
Bleech also noted the importance of carrying a grunt call. At no time of the year are deer more sociable and vulnerable to calling than right now. And Brantley reminded us of the viability of scents, and pointed out that does are also curious about urine and other attractants. This is an important observation, and attracting does to your hunting area can play huge dividends right now, for obvious reasons. Finally, Brandon Ray’s success story of a huge Texas 10-point reminds us that savvy deer hunters can read a situation (such as the buck tending the estrous doe in his story) and formulate a quick, aggressive game plan to score. Bucks and does that are ready to breed will often make mistakes that they’d make no other time of year, and wise hunters aren’t afraid to exploit that advantage!