I’m not used to being a smut peddler, but I asked Mike Rinehart of Wind River Whitetails to capture this buck bedroom scene earlier this season after he told me he reliably gets such images. Sure enough he did it.
Rinehart’s hunters have been doing exceptionally well, based on kill photos. With two hunters left to take the field, he expects all of his clients to take mature bucks again this season. One of them, Will Heward from Ogden, UT, took this same randy four-point two days later:
“What a difference rut makes,” said Rinehart. “Our rut in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains started on or about November 7th…early. Our first five hunters have were in the field from the 5th of November through the 16th, and all five have harvested a mature whitetail buck.”
Deer grow exceptionally large bodies in this part of the Cowboy State: “One old guy weighed in at 270 pounds, and he was 7 ½ years old and was only a 3X3,” said Rinehart. “But as a 3X3, he scored a whopping 126 BC and had a 22″ inside spread.”
The rut has already peaked in small pockets of the West where rut activity started off a little early. But even in these outlier places, like the Wind River Valley, there are still bucks on their feet.
“After picking up trail cameras a couple of days ago it is amazing to see the change. Normally bucks at first daylight and last light in the evening has been the norm for the past few weeks. After looking at several thousand pictures, we are seeing bucks from daylight to dusk and all hours of the day.”
In Northeast Oregon’s Blue Mountains, a place that holds lots of whitetails and relatively few whitetail hunters, Chuck Sarrett of La Grande, OR, has been in the field a lot, along with friends and acquaintances. He has been seeing scrapes and rubs, just fewer deer than normal.
Sarrett cites the possibility of a variety of factors influencing poor numbers so far, the most likely of which seems to be that only the highest elevations have significant snow. This can stratify the deer herd over a couple thousand vertical feet or concentrate numbers higher up instead of concentrating them in the valley where he hunts. Predators and the effects of localized hemorrhagic diseases could also play a role as well, he theorizes.
Oregon is not known for its whitetails. Still, a 14 year-old girl shot a confirmed180-inch deer with a bow in the Beaver State this September, eclipsing the rifle mark by 5 full points. With genetics like that walking around and time left in the season for muzzleloaders, archers, and special tag holders, more nice bucks are likely to fall during the peak of the rut in the south end of the Inland Northwest.