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.



Cooler weather and the waning moon are ushering in a new phase of activity for whitetail bucks in some areas of the West.

“Some of the guys have been reporting light to a little more aggressive sparring,” said Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails near Bozeman. “One hunter was full draw on a 130-class buck sparring under his stand with another buck, but couldn’t get a shot as they kept moving around and the big buck chased the smaller one off. He said it was a little more aggressive than typical for this time of year.

“I noticed lots of young bucks sparring, just playing around in the fields. Typical activity for bucks sharing the same home range once they shed their velvet.”

The hunter pictured above harvested this buck as it was heading toward a newly seeded alfalfa field from the thick cover of the river bottom. Hunting the whitetail food-to-bed corridors continues to be the key to success for Miller and his hunters.

In eastern Washington, farmer and wildlife habitat consultant Hal Meenach has some observations for hunters to ponder as they plan their hunts for this weekend.

“It is late summer, dry, food is short, fawns are less dependent on mom; water sources change and it takes more time out and about to make a living,” he said. “Instead of foraging taking a few minutes, it takes a few hours.”

Meenach, too, has seen sparring activity, but he doesn’t go so far as to suggest it has anything to do with rutting activity at this point.

“I did see a first-year antler buck try to mount a doe about six weeks ago,” Meenach said. “Got his butt kicked for the effort.”