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.



Oct. 21: It’s the eve of Montana’s rifle deer hunting season. I’ve traveled back to my home state, game for action, but keeping my expectations in check.

I’ve noticed some scrapes in key places in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and central Montana, but all I’ve actually seen during daylight in those vicinities is small bucks.

That fits, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene. “Often the early scrapes and rubs you see are just the work of young bucks fooling around and playing out roles they really don’t know anything about, yet.”

Even though North Idaho deer season opened Oct. 10, hunters there are mostly focusing on their shorter window for elk.

Eastern Washington deer season opened Oct. 15, but check stations report a light turnout and harvest for the opening weekend.

It’s still warm, with tons of colorful autumn leaves (see photo) on the trees and brush making hunting difficult. The best is yet to come.

Even in Montana, I have to be cautiously optimistic. The nine ranchers I’ve contacted before my hunt in central Montana all had various gloomy reports of the impact EHD had on the whitetails and antelope. One rancher is still finding dead deer in the creek bottoms. But deer are plentiful in other areas and I’ll be looking for them. Here’s the Whitetail Rut Status Report from Western Montana from Jerry Shively of Flatiron Outfitters.

Fighting: Nothing serious yet.
Rub making:** Just getting started, I’m finding a few small trees being polished and a couple of “signpost” rubs are being hit a bit harder.
Scrape making:** Nothing yet.
Chasing:** Nope.
Daytime movement:** I did see some mid-day activity last week out of two of the bigger bucks I have been watching all summer. This is the first I have seen them in a couple of weeks. I’m not certain what made them move.

Estrous signs: Nope.

X Factor: Temperature is 40 degrees here this morning and it’s been trying to be wet the last three days. Mild temperatures, good feed and water everywhere seem to be keeping the bigger bucks in the timber during most of the daylight hours. Another week, along with hunter activity that starts with the opening of the season, should make some major changes in all deer activity.