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.
I relish reading the posts from our team of rut reporters because they illustrate the dynamic, ever-changing nature of the rut. Though the whitetail breeding season generally follows a predictable, bell-shaped curve, the deer activity that hunters see can vary widely, even within the same region and sometimes on two properties separated only by a handful of miles.
Case in point: Mike Bleech’s report from the Northeast, where Mike notes “the rut peak is not uniform throughout the region.” This is an excellent observation, and one that hunters should keep in mind as they head to the timber. It’s easy to let a slow hunting day–or a dismal report from a friend–dampen your enthusiasm, but the skunking you experience one day can be replaced by a stellar, frenzied morning just a day or two later. Mike also made a great observation when he noted that buck activity will likely increase as more does get bred. That’s certainly true, and in my experience that post-peak activity is often dominated by larger bucks with the stamina to go those extra miles.
Western reporter Rich Landers had the quote of the week from a local source who described the rut as “on, like Donkey Kong.” You have to be a country music fan (I am) to appreciate this description, but the point is that it illustrated a phenomenon that’s long fascinated me: mountain whitetails (and those from Canada) rut late, compared to their cousins from milder climes. Biologists tell us this is because the timing of the spring fawn drop is more critical there, which makes sense, but requires hunters from those regions to have more patience (and warmer clothing) as they wait for the annual breeding season to reach a peak.
Great Plains reporter Dave Draper’s post about a successful hunt for a great buck centered on a hunter who spotted a lone doe acting oddly that entered thick cover. The hunter made a wise choice to wait out this doe, which eventually emerged from the thicket with a mature buck on her tail. These observations are the type that can spell the difference between success and failure as the rut unfolds.
David also brought up a fascinating observation from the region; that mulie hunters were enjoying more success in the high winds that frequent the Plains. As I’ve learned in my many hunts in western Kansas (where whitetails and mulies mix), the big-eared deer simply like more open cover than the brush-loving whitetails, and hunters can find a bedded trophy with more ease if they know where to look.
Finally, South Central reporter Brandon Ray related another tale of a successful hunt for a great whitetail buck; this one from Oklahoma. A super buck for Brandon, and proof that our rut reporters do more than report–we hunt!