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.
Full disclosure: I didn’t even SEE a buck during legal hunting hours over the weekend around my hunting niches in Northeastern Washington, but rut reporters elsewhere in the West were filling their tags, as though the world was about to end.
As usual, the whitetail rut in much of the West is a tad bit behind the breeding season in states farther east and south. I saw does with fawns and no bucks following. But it’s just as clear that bucks are turning on virtually everywhere. Rattling and calling were getting results. “Even though the deer numbers are down, the bucks that are out there are beginning to cruise around,” said Ron Nail, the fulfilled northwestern Montana bowhunter pictured above. He rattled in the buck Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
“It took him a good half hour to work his way in. He came in a zigzag pattern; neat to watch. It would be easier hunting with a rifle, but I love the challenge of hunting with a bow. I would expect the next several days to be as good as it gets. My favorite time for rattling in a good buck, has always been between Nov. seventh and Nov. 14th in our area.”
Also pictured with Nail is Sadee, his border collie-blue healer cross. “She is great at finding wounded bucks, and has been out a few times already this season helping find deer,” he said, noting that it’s legal to use tracking dogs in Montana, while it’s prohibited in some other states.
Nail’s report inspired his Kailspell-area friend, Chuck Williams, that the rut was on and it was time to get serious. Williams went out the next morning–Monday–and bagged a buck at close range with his .44 magnum handgun.
In Eastern Washington, 12-year-old Karsen Enevold and his grandpa devoted a well-chosen weekend to filling his buck tag from a tree stand. It was time well spent, as evidenced in the other photo here. He smoked a nice buck and then filled his doe tag with a second shot–all within 10 seconds. Mission accomplished.
In southeastern Montana, Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails is putting his bets on this week. His daily scouting sessions picked up a clear trend of increased buck activity going into the weekend. The does didn’t appear to be ready, but he saw good numbers of bucks checking out every doe in the fields. A lot of smaller bucks were trolling. He expected the bigger bucks to make their daylight appearances any day.
In the Idaho Panhandle, Joe Cabral of Russell Pond Outfitters near St. Maries was still relaxed with plenty of time left in his season.
“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is prime time here,” he said. “I ALWAYS see bucks cavorting around that day.”