The Rut Gets Hot Wherever Cold Moves In

Reports of increased buck activity came in over the weekend and through the first half of this week from Northeast … Continued

Reports of increased buck activity came in over the weekend and through the first half of this week from Northeast Oregon, Northwest Montana, Southwest Montana, and elsewhere in Eastern Washington. In my next post, I’ll do a comprehensive overview of deer activity in all five states.

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Meanwhile, in the Shields River Valley north of Livingston, MT, Montana Whitetails‘ Keith Miller reports the deer are right on schedule for this time of the month but that unseasonable weather may be slowing the action slightly.

“The bucks are just starting to chase a few does around the last few days,” says Miller. “However, the warm, unseasonable weather in the 60’s has suppressed much of the activity the last 2 days. Earlier in the week when we had a few cold days and light snow, we had one hunter, Matt, harvest his biggest whitetail to date. We also had a guy harvest a nice bull elk at the beginning of the week.”

“There have been some bucks fighting, and the guys are rattling in some bucks so they are responding to some calling right now. It’s generally the next few days where we see the first signs of breeding and with colder weather on the way it should be good timing by the weekend.”

“Most of the guys are seeing shooter bucks, but the activity with the warm weather has limited the movement to the first hour or 2 of daylight and the last hour before dark. We are right at the forefront of the peak with the serious chasing about to break open by the weekend.”

Across the West, as on the Shields River, whitetails have moved or are moving out of the pre-rut into to widely reported seeking behavior. On Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, a day Field and Stream predicted could be excellent, I received several confirmed reports of mature bucks down near my parents’ house in Newport, WA, the heart of Inland Northwest whitetail habitat. This was a definite spike, and I’ve seen more reports of bucks down across the hunting blogosphere.

On a trophy-trout derby trip to British Columbia’s Kootenay Lake, while driving through rain and fog this past weekend, does and young bucks played chicken with our new Tundra on both sides of the border. With five deer collisions to my credit and thousands in damages over the years, why again did I decline to spend a few hundred bucks for a deer-shucking custom bumper?

After watching the weather fluctuate from cold to warm and from stormy to calm during deer season 2013, I can add another truism to the list of lessons learned on the rut reporter beat: It’s far easier to predict and report on deer behavior and their reaction to weather events than it is to predict the wildly fluctuating western weather across six states.

For example, if significant cold moves into the region–and your guess is as good as mine by watching the long-term forecast–expect deer to rut harder and move more often and for scenting conditions to benefit hunters. Regardless of weather, the rut is underway, and forecasts call for cold.