Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family’s Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y nontypical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.
Nov. 1–Overall Activity Status: It’s that time of year when dynamics start to change. As October changes to November, it’s prime time to catch a buck on the move. Bucks will start thinking more about does and less about food. In my area, the Texas Panhandle, I’ve seen few signs of the rut. Bucks are still thinking with their stomachs. I’m still trying to nail a pretty 150-inch 10-point, but so far he’s been sneaky. He’s still predictable and visible, going to food, but I think his habits will change in the upcoming two weeks. When he starts to worry about girls more, he may wander. Then it gets much harder to find him, and kill him, with a bow. I’m going to try to get him soon while he’s still on a pattern.
A serious hunter in Oklahoma told me he sat on an alfalfa field the other night. He counted 53 deer filing out of the trees and into the greens before it got so dark, he could not count them any more. All were does and small bucks. But he predicts later in the season that same field will hold some big boys.
A friend hunting in Central Texas this past week told me the rut was on! He said virtually every buck he saw in three days of hunting was chasing a doe. That’s about a week ahead of schedule compared to most years. All that chasing made it tough for him to get a buck over corn. He eventually tagged a fine 140-class 10-point from a ladder stand, but it was one of the only bucks he saw inside bow range.
Rub Making: In the two main areas I’ve been hunting, a mesquite flat and a river bottom, I’ve noticed half a dozen more small rubs on mesquite trees. Nothing huge, but it’s always exciting to find fresh sign, like that shown here. Friends in South Texas, Central Texas and Oklahoma report numerous rubs along field edges, like food plots or near wheat fields.
Scrape Making: I’ve been monitoring two scrapes near one of my bow stands. Both are pawed up, with an overhanging limb twisted and broken, about once every 2-3 days. One scrape is the size of a basketball. The other the size of a truck tire. I’ve hunted scrapes specifically in the past, but what I’ve learned is, at least where I hunt, most of those scrapes are worked after dark. It’s fun to find that sign, and it let’s you know bucks are in the area, but in my experience most of the action to freshen it up is after shooting hours. **
Chasing**: I’ve seen zero chasing on my hunts. But as mentioned, in the Hill Country one friend reported LOTS of chasing, mostly small bucks. Historically, the rut peaks at different times around my region. It peaks in North Texas around Thanksgiving to early December, Central Texas in mid to late November, and South Texas in mid-December. Oklahoma is typically late November. Mule deer in the area typically rut in early to mid December, even in January in parts of New Mexico. In my area, mule deer season is usually closed when the bucks really start chasing.
Daytime Movement:** I’ve seen good numbers of deer early and late in the day. But there are still some nice bucks on my cameras that seem to move only after dark. Maybe when the rut hits those bucks will be more visible in daylight hours. That’s the hope anyway!