National Whitetail Rut Status Update: Careful Scouting is Paying Off

It's very early in the season, but many changes are occurring in whitetail country. Hunters who have sharp eyes are noticing, and those who have open seasons are connecting. Here's a quick rundown:

Northeast reporter Mike Bleech notes that deer movement is on an upswing in the region as fall temperatures goad whitetails into more activity. Most of the region's bucks have either shed their velvet or are in the process. Mike also stresses the importance of scouting and careful observation when he detailed the sighting of various bucks. Paying careful attention to where you see bucks is critical in pinpointing stand locations, as well as knowing where to look for additional sign and feeding activity.

Will Brantley reports that in his native Kentucky, a late soybean crop has resulted in a bonus hunting opportunity; in a normal fall, beans would have been in the yellowing (drying down) stage, and would be largely ignored by deer. But this year's behind-schedule crop is still lush and green, and whitetails are flocking to those fields. Sharp hunters will follow suit. In nearby Virginia, EHD has sadly taken a toll on deer. It's been a tough year for EHD outbreaks across the country, and the resulting loss of deer (particularly mature bucks) will be felt by hunters.

Southern reporter Eric Bruce brought us another success story, this one from Georgia. There, savvy early season hunter Kenneth Free shot a gorgeous, chocolate-horned 9-point on that state's opening day of archery season. Free's trophy was the result of a keen scouting eye for the acorn crop (that food pattern thing playing out once again) and a willingness to hunt new property. Many trophy bucks are taken each year by hunters reading sign accurately and then springing the trap on buck unaware that he's being hunted.

In the West, Jeff Holmes noted that, while bucks have shed velvet, they're remaining in bachelor groups and still interested mainly in groceries. There, as it seems to be everywhere people farm, alfalfa fields are a key food source for early season bucks. Count on this pattern holding true until killing frosts, or the arrival of a hot new food source, distracts bucks from the green stuff.

South Central reporter Brandon Ray demonstrated keen observation skills when he noted a solitary buck rub on a mesquite tree. When Brandon took the time to scout the area thoroughly, he found several more rubs, all on mesquite trees, and some were impressive. Understanding the tree species that bucks prefer to rub in your area can significantly reduce your scouting time by helping hunters identify key areas to start searching for rubbing activity.

Hunters from a growing number of states will participate in the opening of archery seasons this week, so stay tuned to Rut Reporters for the latest patterns in deer movement and behavior from your region.