Reports about second-rut activity are still coming in from hunters and photographers in the field, although except for special hunts, only Idaho is still open for archery deer hunting at this point. Hunters in the Gem State have until December 24th to tag a deer.

Bucks in some areas are reportedly still seeking estrous does–and finding them–but they’re also finding rivals resulting in some excellent reports of fighting.

These three bucks were taken by hunters in the first week of December as Cassidy Outfitters wrapped up their December deer hunts, which Jack Cassidy told me were harder to sell than those in the early season because his clients don’t want to shoot bucks with broken tines, despite the modern ingenuity of taxidermists. “By December, you can hardly find a buck out here without a broken tine,” he said.

All fall, Cassidy has offered evidence of the high buck-to-doe ratio on the ranches along the Arkansas River where he guides. Competition is fierce, and bucks endure lots of battles with heavy-horned, corn-fed rivals. His clients passed on some bucks this late season that had nearly all their tines stripped from battle. On the last day of the season, Cassidy and a hunter found six bucks with two does!

In Montana, where general season hunts are now also done for the season, photographer Jaime Johnson has been in the field watching whitetails frequently throughout the fall, especially the last few weeks. He has witnessed and photographed exceptional rutting behaviors all season, including a serious second rut that appears to be ending as bucks are losing their headgear.

“Was with them again today. Saw three new bucks that have shed – another with just one antler!” reports Johnson. Just three and four days earlier, the story was quite different: On December 14th, Johnson reported the following: “Amazing jousting images today….. two big guys full frame for about an hour!”

The previous day, he and his wife, Lisa, hit the photographer’s paydirt. “We were watching a really nice wide buck that was romancing a doe during the second rut. He just kept trying, but she wouldn’t play. Then after a few hours, she finally started to let him start licking her. We were sure that this was going to work out, and finally, he mounted her!

“Then they romanced again…. Then he mounted her again…then romanced her and then mounted her for a third time in a half hour. Finally, she ducked under a pig wire fence. He decided he wanted more and tried to follow her. He got a little hung up and next thing you know, he came up with only one antler!”

Second rut activity is taking place in Idaho as well, and I know a few hunters yet to fill tags who are spending time patterning bucks on food sources where they are also finding occasional estrous does. I hope to find enough evidence from Idaho hunters to make a final report about rut behaviors before the weekend, but I’m not holding my breath for a whole lot of action, mostly crossing my fingers for those guys to tag out. Except for isolated reports of second-rut behavior, the Western whitetail rut for 2012 is almost a wrap.