Unsettled Weather Affects Rut Activity; Here's How to React

The predominant theme this past week was weather--of just about every sort--and how it affects your hunting plans. Typically an unsettled month, October can bring anything from 80-degree afternoons to an out-of-the-blue blizzard. Rut Reporter David Draper and his fellow Great Plains hunters got the latter last week--an early-October storm dumped over three feet of snow across the region.

This kind of major event can radically alter deer patterns, and about the only thing you can do is lace up the boots and get scouting to find out where deer have holed up and what their new routines are. Draper's observation that windy days are a good time to scout is one I agree strongly with. Wind makes it difficult for whitetails to hear, allowing you to slip close to sensitive spots (like bedding areas) without alarming animals. Wind can also dry out vegetation, and dry matter simply doesn't hold scent very long. The most successful hunters recognize that just because conditions aren't perfect for hunting doesn't mean that important missions can still be accomplished.

At the other end of the thermometer, Brandon Ray reported warm weather the South Central region, and recommended just the opposite in terms of scouting. With deer not moving much, he noted his hesitance to scout the linear cover (small creek bottoms, etc) on the ranches he hunts. This is a good call. I'm all for aggressive scouting, but if that mission puts a buck on high alert and compromises future opportunities, playing the waiting game is a better idea.

But the most common weather-related trend is that colder weather is jump-starting deer movement from Mike Bleech's Northeast to the West region covered by Jeff Holmes. The big take-home point here is that a drop in the mercury can spur strong pre-rut activity, weeks before normal, and you need to react quickly. We saw a similar phenomenon last fall in the North Central, when cold conditions arrived early and never left. This is why it's so important now to keep tabs on the latest rub lines, scrapes, hot feeding areas, and the home ranges of doe family groups. The switch governing intense buck-breeding behavior can flip in an instant, and weather is one of the strongest drivers. If you're behind the proverbial 8-ball when all it happens, you can waste valuable time simply trying to find a good buck to hunt, much less slapping your tag on him. On the other hand, if you've done your homework, you'll be ready to capitalize as soon as a sharp cold front kick-starts rutting action.