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.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over, as the saying goes. The whitetail rut might be winding down in some areas of the West, but it’s still a positive factor as proved by hunters who have tagged big bucks in the past couple of days.
Bowhunters in eastern Washington’s late archery season are effectively using calls and scents for bucks on the prowl. Before climbing into his stand for the afternoon, Joel Enevold said he freshened nearby scrapes with Tink’s 69 doe-in-rut buck lure.
He barely got settled in his stand at 1:00 p.m. before he spotted the split-tine buck he’d been seeing in the trail cam photos. The bruiser was working a scrape. The buck slowly but surely kept coming in, sniffed the air below Enevold’s stand and posed for a storybook archery shot that dropped him five yards from where he was hit.
“This buck is the largest I have taken since the age of 15 and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to harvest such a great animal,” he said.
Meantime, his brother passed up two 4×4 bucks that afternoon. “Both bucks were grunting up a storm, and one buck decided to stop 20 yards away and shred a tree for a few minutes,” Brandon Enevold said. “Bucks seem to be actively searching for does and traveling with their noses close to the ground.”
North Idaho rifle hunters are still reporting bucks reacting to grunt tubes and estrous can calls, but the rifle season is winding down fast.
“In eastern Colorado, whitetails and mule deer are still rutting, but it’s been light-hearted and off and on all season for some reason,” said Robert Amidon of Atkinson Expeditions. “Monday I saw two small whitetail bucks fighting over a single doe,” he said. “But no big bucks.”
Archery hunting will give way to eastern Colorado’s Dec. 1-14 rifle season, which will offer more opportunities to fill a tag in the region’s open country, he said.
“The plan is to get out, spend a lot of time covering ground and glassing as much as possible, finding bucks bedded up or with does, and going in after them,” he said. “Simple as that.”
In Western Montana, it’s all over but the braggin’ and cryin’ and some continued rutting activity.
“Hunters are gone; snow is gone and the three biggest bucks I saw last summer and fall are still chasing does,” said Jerry Shively of Flatiron Outfitters. “I saw all three of them (Saturday) afternoon, each had a hot doe in front of him. Most of the ‘orphan’ fawns are back with their mothers now, but the rut is still on here.
“I had no deer hunters the last two weeks of the season, so some great bucks just have to make it through the winter to be around for next season. The does I saw being chased Saturday were all smaller does, most likely coming in heat for the first time. The bigger and obviously older does were showing no signs of being interested in anything but eating.”