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.
Idaho archers have about two weeks to shop for a whitetail buck before Christmas.
Rutting activity lingers in the West as Idaho Panhandle bowhunters take their last shot in a season that opens Saturday in selected units and runs through Dec. 24.
They’re too late for a chance at the bruiser pictured above, taken by Dan Hoke at the edge of a clearcut near Lake Pend Oreille while the rut was still hot and heavy just before the rifle seasons ended. But Rut Reporters are seeing more of the same across several Western states. In fact, bucks in some areas appear to be in a peak phase of covering ground.
In Eastern Washington, where most of the archery buck hunting opportunity will end Dec. 15, Brandon Enevold says bucks are still defending areas in pursuit of late-estrus does.
“I passed up two bucks on the Saturday,” said Enevold, who’s pickiness this season has enabled him to observe a wealth of whitetail activity. “The 5×5 was obviously looking for does and when he noticed the 4×4, he got very aggressive and chased the smaller buck until he jumped over an adjacent fence.
“Sunday evening, I had a beautiful 140 class 5×5 approach my stand. His nose was glued to the ground searching for hot does. Unfortunately, he managed to sneak away up the ridge chasing a yearling doe before I could manage a shot.
“New bucks are showing up at most of my stand locations, which leads me to believe that mature bucks are really covering some ground right now in search of the few remaining does that are still receptive as well as yearling does that are coming into heat late in the season.”
The frantic “trail and defend” stage is gone for the year, said Hal Meenach, a farmer and wildlife habitat consultant who has a fine whitetail laboratory across his acreage.
Now, he says, whitetails bucks are in the “dog those does stage.”
“Monday evening in south Spokane County, a nice whitetail was making the rounds with a dozen or so does. No response to the small pair of bucks with the group.”
He points out that unsettled mature does and just maturing fawns still will cycle, and he comforts hunters with his observation that there are still “plenty of bucks around to extend the fawning season next spring.”
In Western Montana, where deer hunting has closed for the year, Jerry Shively of Flatiron Outfitters has plenty of time to kick back and watch the rut tail off.
“As of (Monday), bucks were still chasing does,” he said. “I did not see any of the bigger bucks today so it may be that they were already taking care of a doe and letting the younger bucks do the chasing. I saw at least four different smaller bucks today that seemed to have a terminal case of the stupids, besides the ones that were doing the chasing.”