National Report: Buddy Bucks Mean Better Hunting

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.

My hunting pals probably get sick of hearing me say this, but nearly every year, I see more big bucks during my post-rut hunts than I do during the weeks of the peak rut. I confess that part of this mantra is nothing more than simple cheerleading, but I've got reasons for my rah-rah.

The simplest explanation is that I'm usually camped out on a hot food source, where hungry bucks are sure to feed. Reason two is that I believe secondary rutting activity is largely a big-buck (if they're present) thing, and the does they pester will invariably hang near the best food. Then there's this weird theory I have that bucks start to "bachelor-up" in the weeks following peak rutting activity.

I can't prove this scientifically, but I think bucks tolerate each other more now, and since there's less collective energy for fighting, they simply hang together without banging heads too often. And maybe there's a safety-in-numbers factor at work, too. All I know is, even with secondary rut behavior occurring, it's not rare for me to see two or more bucks traveling in tandem.

Mike Bleech inadvertently added fuel to my theory this week when he posted a picture of a pretty nine-point Pennsylvania buck shot by long-time friend Dan Stimmell, who filled his tag with the second buck he'd seen within minutes. Yes, both bucks appeared to be after the same doe, but it's not a stretch to imagine them feeding or wandering together only minutes before. Will Brantley also posted some great video of a pair of bucks dogging a hot doe along a field edge, and Will noted the larger of the two animals was the nicest buck he'd seen all season. I'd be interested to hear your input and observations on this subject.

Across the country, persistent hunters are finding ways to score during the post rut. Brandon Ray posted a photo of an excellent 8-point shot by Ty Day in Oklahoma, and David Draper and Rich Landers each ponied up a pic of a great deer shot in their respective regions by post-rut hunters who refused to quit. If there's an ongoing moral in this period of the season, it's as simple as this: Keep plugging away and you've got a chance at tagging a dandy. Bag it to become an NFL couch potato and your odds diminish to zero.

Finally, Eric Bruce put a smile on my face with his report, which stated that rut activity is just kick-starting in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Selfishness alert: I'm scheduled to hunt 'Bama bucks next month, and Eric's submission has me anticipating great deer action to accompany my break from the frigid Great Lakes winter. Eric also pointed out an important phenomenon when he noted that rut action can be non-existent in one area and spectacular only a short distance away. The lesson? Get as much widely spaced property to hunt as possible, so that switching locations is a legitimate tactic when deer activity flat-lines in one spot!