X Factor: Lock-down and winter storms. The peak breeding phase of the rut is perhaps the most difficult to hunt of all phases. A buck that's tending a hot doe simply isn't going to walk around much, especially in the open. Based on all the signs, I think we're just days away from that phase. Chris Ryan, who works for the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, agrees. "I hunted Monday and saw several bucks chasing does, and recent reports from area hunters have all said the same thing, " he says. "Groups of does and fawns seem to still be together for the most part around here, but I would expect bucks to be locked down with individual does over the next couple days. When you start seeing lone fawns wandering around, that's a sure sign that actual breeding is taking place."