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.


The whitetail rut in much of the West has been in a crescendo that resulted in a lot of happy hunters during the past week. But lately I’ve heard considerable frustration from hunters afield. Rattling and calling are not so effective as big bucks lock-on to does. In some areas, the bucks went into a clear cool-off period, but don’t be surprised if some sort of reproductive cymbals rev up the orchestra one more time.

Here’s the latest word from a couple of hunting guides who have been in the field non-stop during the peak of the rut.

Southwestern Montana, where the deer seasons end Sunday:

“The rut seems to be in that hot/cold phase where we have the bigger bucks in lockdown mode,” said Keith Miller of Montana Whitetails. “We’ll have a few really hot days and then a few slow days. However, the weather has been warm and windy which is a really bad recipe for hunting the rut here in Montana. We did have a hunter score on a nice whitetail Monday (shown here) as it followed a hot doe past his river-bottom stand with two smaller bucks in tow.

“Another hunter shot a nice buck Sunday morning over a decoy. He was hunting from the hay bale blind and had the buck come posturing into the decoy.”

Eastern Washington, where the late whitetail rifle hunt has ended but archery and muzzleloader seasons are opening this week in designated units:

“Well today was not what I expected,” said Nate Krohn, who was scouting Monday after a big snowstorm for primitive weapons hunts in northcentral Washington. “Saw lots of solo does and a few smaller solo bucks. Rattling didn’t work, which I was expecting. Lots of snow, about a foot. Saw lots of nice country, and only got stuck once. Trail cam also showed no bucks during daylight and lots of solo does. My uneducated guess is it is the slow before the second rut where we were at. It snowed like crazy until noon, so they may have been hunkered down a little too.”

In other words, be ready for the post-intermission movement.