Rut Reporter Rich Landers, a native Montanan and life-long hunter, is the outdoors editor for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. He has written several books about the western outdoors and has hunted whitetails all his life. States covered: WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, CO.



Sept. 15: Despite a lot of discouraging news about whitetail declines in portions of Montana, the first portion of the bowhunting season has generally been excellent in the southwestern portion of the state. Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails near Bozeman sent half dozen photos of happy hunters to prove it, along with some photos of bucks still in velvet.

The key: Miller has been focusing on the early season food-to-bed patterns.

The hot weather dropped buck activity by 50 percent or more, hunters have been reporting, but there’s relief forecast for this weekend.

Miller also sent photos of trophy bucks feeding with does, but with no interest in anything but the feed.

“We noticed bucks hanging onto their velvet a few days longer than normal this year,” Miller said. “A few good bucks still remain in velvet but will likely all be clean by the end of this week.”


In Western Montana, Jerry Shively reports no sign of bachelor groups breaking up, “but some very light sparring going on with the smaller bucks. The big boys aren’t even watching.”

In eastern Washington, bucks have continued their summer feeding patterns, “for the moment,” said Brandon Enevold, who’s been hunting near Spokane.

In the Okanogan area of eastern Washington, Jason Verbeck reports, “Small bucks are still grouped up and very small bucks are still hanging with does.

“However, you can already start to see the shift of the mature bucks that have survived a year or two starting to become nocturnal and solitary.”