Lingering summer-like conditions across the West finally appear to be trending colder and wetter as a nice storm system continues to move through the region, to be followed by cooler day and nighttime temperatures and projected rain for the weekend across much of the West. The cooldown and rain showers will likely increase deer harvest as daytime movement increases and as the landscape grows quieter. As I wrote last week, the woods are unusually dry and noisy across the region. It’ll take more than a few days of intermittent rain to quiet the woods.
Whitetail harvest is never high during October seasons out West, and popular whitetail check stations in Idaho and Washington reflect that. In Deer Park, Washington, north of Spokane, 114 hunters voluntarily stopped in with a total of 12 bucks, nine of which were whitetails. In St. Joe River country in tiny Avery, Idaho, Scheffy’s Motel and General Store reports zero whitetails checked, just elk.
Scheffy’s is a check station and home to the biggest brag board I’ve ever seen, which they archive for viewing in swinging poster holders of the kind stores use to display teeny bopper posters. These holders are full of photos of mulies, black bears, moose, elk, cougars, wolves, and lots of whitetails. Most of the effort in North Idaho takes place in November, and some good reports should come from Avery later in the season.
No sources in Washington or Idaho reported observing anything close to rutting behavior during the recent openers, and I’m checking in with folks regularly. Reports of sparring bucks have dropped off as deer have become less conspicuous after being pursued by archers, muzzleloaders, and modern firearm hunters.
At Montana Whitetails, north of Livingston, deer on a series of leased ranches are moving after sunrise and before sundown. On some ranches, bucks are still together, while on others just miles away, bucks have become more solitary, reports Keith Miller. While Miller has observed some broken tines on smaller and medium-sized bucks, he hasn’t seen any fighting.
“It’s dry, and the bucks are concentrated around water and each other. They tend to develop a pecking order,” says Miller.
While there are some rubs present, his clients haven’t observed any serious scrapes or bucks visiting scrape lines. Miller admits they never go into the bedding areas to check for early rut signs, a wise idea no doubt.
“Around here, bucks will begin to show serious early rutting signs toward the end of October,” he says.