Early–and Serious–Rut Activity in Parts of the West

The grotesquely swollen neck on this 180-class whitetail looks like one you might expect to see on a buck during … Continued

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The grotesquely swollen neck on this 180-class whitetail looks like one you might expect to see on a buck during late November or early December. But Pennsylvania’s Gary Valvano took this buck on November 1, during southeastern Colorado’s rifle season.

Finally, we’re seeing serious rutting activity out West as we move into November after fall storms moved through much of the region, briefly bringing cooler temperatures and lots of precipitation before warming up again.

Valvano was hunting in what should have been unfavorable conditions with Jack Cassidy of Cassidy Outfitters. His five hunters this year have all shot 160-class or better whitetails, and the season didn’t start until October 27. The first day of this month, a warm day with a full moon, was very good to Cassidy and his clients, who took 174- and 181-inch bucks. Valvano’s monster was out checking scrapes at high noon when he fell.

“These bucks we’re hunting are in full-blown rut,” says Cassidy, who maintains rut sign is everywhere and that bucks are out traveling in broad daylight. “They have to compete pretty hard to get a shot at a doe in this country. There’s about 3 does for every mature buck.”

This is an impressive factor that Cassidy underscores each time we discuss hunting conditions in the southeast corner. He and his clients hunt prime irrigated cropland on the Arkansas River, where bucks receive little hunting pressure and face stiff competition from heavy-antlered rivals. Already he and his hunters are seeing broken tines. The four other bucks taken so far also had rut-swelled necks.

Farther north and at higher elevation near Riverton, Wyoming, at Wind River Whitetails, Teresa Reinhart says bucks are not rutting, but rubs continue to appear and scrapes are increasing. Today, her first morning in a stand for the season, she passed up three nice bucks because it’s day one. She watched one of those bucks stand on its hind legs and rub its antlers high in a tree.

“It’s back to being warm here again,” says Rinehart. “I don’t think any serious rutting will happen until it cools down a little…I used to tell [my husband] I wasn’t even going to hunt until November 15th because it seems like that’s when the rut usually gets going really good. I like to get out a little earlier now.”

To the north in Montana, some big bucks have been taken in the last week, including a 170-class buck from the Great Falls area that I’m gathering more information on, as well as two big bucks from the Dillon, Montana area. Deer are not yet rutting in Montana, but they are rubbing and beginning to scrape in places, as they are in the Inland Northwest. November is the month when the rut will turn on throughout the West, although we’re probably still a good two weeks from seeing widespread rut madness.