Bucks Out Of Velvet, But Still On Feed-To-Bed Patterns

After another merciless summer of high temperatures and low precipitation across the western United States, it appears a cooling trend has settled in over most of the West, signaling the arrival of fall. We're a ways off from the killing frosts that will put an end to the suffering of EHD stricken deer in parts of Montana and Wyoming, but major storms dropped temperatures in most of the western whitetail states and also reduced fire danger.

The good news about whitetails in Montana is they are doing very well across the vast majority of the state. Still, reports of major losses are still coming in from Montana's central river valleys and around other water sources that concentrate deer. It's a similar story for Wyoming, with whitetails thriving across much of the state but reports of EHD coming in from the eastern Bighorn Basin. Overall, whitetails in the west appear to have come through winter well and are thriving across most of their range.

Reports last night from several states indicate bucks are almost completely out of velvet, including this freshly shed 3-year-old buck photographed by famed North Idaho outfitter Rich Lindsey. Although Lindsey is best known as a trophy trout guide on Priest Lake, he's also a rabid whitetail hunter who says he'll gladly "tip over" a whitetail 5x5 standing next to a 6-point bull elk if presented the opportunity. He hunts all over North Idaho and just joined my large network of contacts on the ground in the whitetail woods.

This young buck is one of his "yard" deer, one he won't shoot, but he figures someone else will shoot it almost for sure due to its unusually long eyeguards and its propensity for hanging around houses and yards. Lindsey watched the buck shed his velvet several days ago and is now watching him and a couple of younger bucks sparring already. Lindsey's report is one of several I received indicating bucks are playing with their headgear.

Overall activity status: Deer are still in summer patterns, and western archers are hunting feed-to-bed patterns and probably will be for a while. Most activity is still occurring early in the morning and late at night.

Fighting: Sparring is taking place, but no serious fighting has been reported nor likely will be for several weeks.

Rub making: Deer are almost completely shed of velvet out West and are polishing antlers and making rubs. Aside from game cameras, which have become popular in the West, rubs are one of the best ways to gain insight into their whereabouts as they become more secretive as they get shot at leading up toward the rut.

Scrape making: None reported

Chasing: No chasing reported except for young deer playing.

Daytime movement: Starting to increase a little as temperatures drop, but deer are on a low-light feed-to-bed pattern everywhere, it seems.

X-factor: Stand positioning is key right now when deer are keyed in between beds and feed sources, most of which are agricultural this time of year except in mountainous regions where little agriculture is available. Finding reliable feed sources and likely bedding areas and patterning deer on travel routes is the best way to waylay a western whitetail in late September.