Overall Activity Status: “Here is a buck that is the prototype of what we are trying to grow,” says Mike Rinehart of Wyoming’s Wind River Whitetail about this bruiser.
“This deer is 4 ½ [probably]. Never got a real good picture of him to be sure. He is a heavy horned 5 x 5 and has started his 6th point on his right side. Two wishes I would have for this guy: I hope he can survive another year to see if he can make his 6th points, and I hope he breeds every doe on the Wind River.”
Probably due to the elevation and increasingly crisp mornings, whitetail bucks in Wyoming seem to be a little further along than most areas of the West, polishing antlers and becoming increasingly active, according to Rinehart.
_”We are starting to see a lot more buck activity although it is still warm during the day. Total movement is up substantially, including does and fawns. It seems like every morning and evening we are counting more deer on the feed fields. We walked the perimeter of the bedding grounds yesterday, and the amount of rubs is mind-boggling. I hope all of these deer stay around for a while as it should be another banner year on the river.”
Lower in latitude and in elevation, very different environmental factors influence whitetail behavior in Southeast Colorado, including the ongoing drought, thousands of acres of unharvested corn, and major changes on CRP land.
Jack Cassidy of Cassidy Outfitters, reports that whitetails are barely visible on the 200,000 acres he manages in Colorado’s very best whitetail habitat, near the Kansas border along the Arkansas River. Many thousands of acres of corn that would normally be harvested by now are providing food and cover for deer, some of the biggest whitetails in the country. Mule deer also live here.
“The whitetails never have a reason to leave; they just stay in there in those big corn circles until the harvest,” says Cassidy, whose clients typically shoot 160-175-class bucks, with a 201 typical the biggest whitetail taken off one of his leases. “There’s also been a big change in CRP land. We are in a bad drought down here, so the federal government is letting landowners cut their CRP fields, and we just lost 100,000 acres that went back into rotation…Even though this drought is bad and has been affecting antler growth all over, we are still going to shoot at least 170-class deer this year, probably bigger.”_
The bucks pictured on Cassidy’s website dropped my jaw. But Southeastern Colorado whitetails exist almost exclusively on river bottoms and in irrigated agriculture, which helps deer on a drought-stricken landscape but that makes access difficult.
Meanwhile in the Gem State, Matt Craig of Boulder Creek Outfitters in Peck, Idaho, offers this brief, initial report: “Just got back from our first few weeks of bear hunts. Been seeing lots of whitetails out in the early morning and late evenings working in the fields. It has been fairly warm up to this past week, but it has cooled down some. This last week we’ve started to see more and more bucks without velvet on. Until about September 5-7, almost all had full velvet on still. All the bucks are still in bachelor groups, so if you see one buck most likely there are 2-4 more by it somewhere. The does are still grouped up with their yearlings and are still keeping their distance from the bachelor groups.”
The Inland Northwest has been experiencing summer weather most of September, with temperatures into the high 80s and low 90s. Whitetails in Craig’s neck of the woods won’t start getting active until the heat abates. Huge bucks into the 190s have been shot on Craig’s leases in recent years, but hunting won’t get good until sometime in early November.
Fighting: No reports of anything more than minor sparring form anywhere in the West.
Rub Making: Bucks on higher-elevation landscapes are more actively making rubs than their lower-elevation counterparts, who are mostly still in summer patterns.
Scrape Making: None.
Daytime Movement: Still mostly mornings and evenings, but movement is increasing in Wyoming and elsewhere feeling the effects of cold nights coupled with the shortening days.
Estrous Signs:** None.
X Factor: Drought in Southeast Colorado has affected not only antler growth and deer feeding and bedding patterns due to uncut corn, but also CRP management. Some landowners are cutting CRP fields, and 100,000 acres just went out of CRP and into rotation. In the Inland Northwest of Eastern Washington, North Idaho, Northeastern Oregon, and far Northwestern Montana, warm temperatures limit deer movement to just before dark and early morning, but bucks across the landscape have now lost their velvet.