Landers: Rut Behavior Not Over

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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Montana's deer season ended a half-hour after sunset Sunday with a gleam still in the eyes of a few big whitetail bucks. But mostly they seem to be ready for a break. The photograph of the buck (above), snapped in Western Montana by wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson, seems to tell the story.

In northern Idaho, rifle hunters have a few more days in the season and bucks are still on the prowl. Tom Anderson, in Sandpoint sent a photo, shown below, of a Big R Store customer who bagged a nice buck on Saturday as it was making a scrape.

In eastern Washington, the rifle seasons are closed, but late archery hunters are out in force and some muzzleloader seasons are open. I have several reports of hunters arrowing nice bucks that were scraping and acting more like they were in the earlier stages of the rut.

But in Montana, where no post-season hunts will be offered this year, hunters tend to be thinking about what will be around for the 2012 hunts.

"Most game check stations are reporting harvest down as much as 30 percent from last season," said Ron Nail, a bowhunter from Kalispell. Winter, disease and predators have been a triple whammy on deer in wide areas of Montana the past few years.

"The age class of deer taken was generally much younger, with mostly 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 year old bucks," Nail said, adding what's on the mind of many Montana deer and elk hunters: "The wolf season will continue through the end of the year, many areas haven't met the quota as yet."