Pre-Rut Activity Heating Up Out West

The pre-rut appears to be starting or on the verge of starting across most of the West. Surely some deer are still bulking up and gorging themselves in anticipation of the rut and winter, but things are heating up based on the increased buck activity being reported in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. Typically only a handful of nice whitetails are taken during the October general hunting seasons in these states compared to the big number of bucks that will fall in November. But as my contacts and I have pointed out, fall conditions have been in place for well over a month throughout much of the region, and unlike the previous few years where most seasonal event have come late or right on time, we appear to be moving toward the rut a little early out West.

I first met Randi Shaw, now Randi Lithgow, three autumns ago in northeast Washiongton's ultra-wild Pend Oreille County. We didn't run into each other in the backcountry of the Selkirk Mountains, rather at a tiny-and-sometimes-rowdy gas station in the even tinier town of Usk. She emerged from the Suburban of a friend of mine with an acute case of "scope eye" she sustained from dropping the hammer on a black bear she'd spotted and stalked with the help of her now husband, Mike, and his friend. Shaw hunts elk with a muzzleloader, but she explains why she ended up taking this gorgeous little buck with a rifle earlier this week, even though it was opening day in a county with much larger bucks available and deer woods outside her backdoor.

"My Dad and I have started a tradition of hunting whitetails together every year. This year was exceptionally "fast-paced" and our hard work during pre-season scouting definitely paid off! Within 20 minutes after shooting light, my dad had a 3-point in his sights. He finished the deal with a single clean shot to the neck (a classic "dad" shot). I didn't get anything during the morning hunt, but I was excited as we prepared for more deer activity later in the day during our evening hunt."

"We tip-toed up to our spot later that afternoon, and because it got cold fast this year, I had bundled up with many layers of Thinsulate, prepared to sit through the evening's autumn chill. As we prepared to ease into our super-secret hiding spot, we spooked two bucks. Luckily they both stopped to watch us for long enough for me to get a single shot. Mine was a 3 by 4 with split eye guards.

"Both of the deer we took were the main features on our game camera for the last three months. The rest of the bucks did not consistently take advantage of the photo-op.

Although we didn't spend much time in the woods on opening day, our time beforehand was time well spent. There is nothing better than waking early to watch the sunrise on a crisp Autumn morning. I grew up spending time with my dad in the woods in Pend Oreille County, and I feel very fortunate to get to spend this time of my life with my dad, in the forest, making new memories.

For my next post I'm chasing down pictures for a hunting report I received from Lewiston, Idaho, today about a man who harvested a bull elk in the morning. After he spent the day hauling, hanging, and cleaning up the elk to cool he went for a walk with a hunting partner down a logging road and tagged a 150-class whitetail out in the open. According to both Clark's Taxidermy in Lewiston and the hunter himself, that buck had a very swollen neck and was shot in the company of a mature four-point. Reports should continue to get increasingly interesting as we poke out way into the pre-rut for 2013.