Landers: The Bucks Are Coming Out

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.

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If you haven't filled your tag by the end of this weekend, I give you permission to consider calling the office and letting them know you're sick and staying home. Heh, heh. We're looming around prime time to bag a big buck in the West.

Rut Reports coming in from Oregon to Wyoming are painting a picture of bucks starting to come out of hiding with something in mind. We don't have to imagine anything--we have photographic proof that bucks are getting in the mood!

Northeastern Washington's 15-day late whitetail buck hunt opens Saturday, and the deer appear to be rising to the occasion. Rut Reporters are seeing bucks moving with does and in some cases chasing does.

"I went up and checked one of my trail cams and noticed two alright-sized bucks doing some lip curling action (see photo) 40 minutes apart from each other on the same day," said Chris van Kempen of Fourtrack Hunting Adventures.

"I am thinking love is starting to flow through the air," he said, noting that he had numerous trail cam photos of bucks locking antlers together and pushing around, as you can see in the other nighttime photo attached.

In Western Oregon, Jim Johnson has observed and photographed Columbian whitetails (color photo) in very light sparring--he calls it "grooming" activity--during daylight hours. The neck was noticeably swelling on one buck last week, he said, predicting that the cooler weather that's moved in would kick the activity up to another level. "It is getting close to the magic date of November eighth," when these deer normally get it on, he said.

In Montana, check station reports have generally been indicating a below-normal harvest. That's understandable considering the troubles many regions have had with winter kill and EHD die-offs going into the season.

But deer are carrying on. Hunters are finding the sweet spots, and they're advancing into the best part of their buck season. Even in the hard-hit Milk River area, hunting guide Eric Albus said he's "starting to see the whitetail and mule deer act like the rut is just around the corner. Sparring matches have intensified and bachelor groups are breaking up."