Rut activity heating up in the West

I've written about playing the wind and hunting wind edges for the past couple reports, and that theme will likely continue based on information coming in. Between yesterday and this morning, I received several pictures of bucks down, including this freaky whitetail with a palmated left side like a moose. The buck was shot by Gibo DeBiase, who was hunting with Montana Whitetails north of Livingston.

DeBiase shot the buck just before dark when winds settled down. He reports wind foiled his previous hunts and those of others as storms rolled through, making currents unpredictable. As winds settled and stand location again worked in hunters' favor, DeBiase arrowed his buck at 12 yards after watching it come in from 100 yards on its way from a bedding area to an alfalfa field. It died on the edge of a river, just 40 yards from the shot location.

Montana Whitetail's Keith Miller is an expert on early-season Western whitetails, and he offers these observations of current conditions:

"Hunters have been seeing an increase in deer activity despite the full moon. The mornings, obviously, are more difficult to hunt during this moon phase [since bucks have been moving all night], but that's why we hunt every chance we get; you just never know. This is especially here in Montana, where the deer are concentrated in these private river bottoms, and increased shot opportunities are presented regardless of the conditions. Case in point, take Ryan Moore who flew in from Vermont. This week was his first ever bowhunt, and he was facing this full moon phase.

During the full moon we try to adjust our hunter's stand choice by first and foremost, wind direction, but also based on where these deer will be during a full moon that peaks overhead in the mornings. We try to place hunters within the structure of the riverbottom off the "edges". These whitetails feel comfortable within the confines of these willow thickets closer to their core bedding areas, and that's where you will find them on their feet, browsing through on these full moon mornings once they leave the fields. Actually, most of these bigger bucks are already back in the thicker cover well before official daybreak, but that's where we like to set guys up to take advantage of the late movement.

Moore connected with this beautiful Montana buck on his first-ever bowhunt after seeing several good bucks pass by another stand earlier in his hunt. Miller put him in that stand when the wind was right, and after watching a bigger buck walk by just out of bow range, he looked off to his left and saw this buck and another closing in at 30 yards.

Both of the bucks pictured in this post and two others I just received pictures of were taken because hunters found a wind their buck was comfortable with but that allowed them to remain unnoticed. It'll be weeks before bucks start to lose it in the madness of the rut, so learn from those feed-to-bed bucks by observing and reacting to the wind.