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 a common theme this week, it’s the above. The rut can make a poor showing in some regions, depending on any number of vagaries: wind, weather, sex ratios–the list seems endless sometimes. But the breeding season does occur, regardless of what we witness, and we are incapable of killing any buck (much less a good one) if we are home on the sofa rather than in the woods.
Rut Reporters Dave Draper and Brandon Ray both tagged great bucks this week, leaving the rest of our crack team with hats off. These guys have been successful while the rest of us are still looking for our first fine buck of the season. Both bucks illustrate that need for patience, even during the supposed-frenetic rut: Draper’s in persevering through a difficult hunt in another region, Ray’s through a refusal to give up on a buck that was anything but easy to hunt.
Reporters Eric Bruce and Will Brantley point out that while the excitement of seek-n-chase may be past, there are good bucks to be had for those with patience and woods-savvy to simply keep at it. Does were never more important than they are right now; as mature animals finish up breeding available does, those older bucks will reload for another campaign of seek and breed that can put hunters (at least those willing to keep hunting hard) in an encounter with a big, old buck with the stamina to keep looking. Western reporter Rich Landers stressed this when he noted a guide source who urged hunters to keep after them as a second wave of unbred does will start attracting bucks in the days ahead.
It’s tempting to get discouraged as the peak excitement of mid-fall activity ebbs, but if whitetails can teach us anything it’s the value of patience!