Rut May Be Nearing Its End, But Bucks Acting Otherwise

Overall activity status: Little has changed from my last report in terms of the overall takeaway: Very large bucks are still making mistakes and seeking does. According to Whitetail Addictions' pro staffer Troy Pottenger of north Idaho, "Bucks are out trying to cover the last few does. This is the time of year when a guy can encounter a hermit buck. It's a great time to be in the woods."

Daytime Movement: Increasing cold and the onset of winter has kept deer on their feet, according to sources in Washington and Idaho. Jack Cassidy of Cassidy Outfitters says bucks are still seeking hard in southeast Colorado.

Scrape Making: None reported.

Rub Making: None reported.

Estrous Signs: "There's one doe in estrus left in the whole county, and she's got nine mature bucks with beat up antlers after her," joked Colorado's Jack Cassidy. Reports in the Inland Northwest have been a little better, with signs of receptive does and does with bucks.

Troy Pottenger and local biologists suggest a small number of does will continue come into estrous as we move deeper into December.

Fighting: "Yesterday I saw two small whitetails in the 120s fighting really hard, but they did not chase or sniff the does around them when finished fighting," said Jerrod Gibbons of Washington's Okanogan Valley Guide Service.

“Trail cam pics are showing bucks coming in to feed and looking post-rut. There is some aggression I can tell while they’re feeding, because the bucks’ ears are pinned back when around other bucks.” Gibbons witnessed two 120-class bucks fight savagely in a river bottom near Omak. Competition is likely high for the few remaining estrous does.

Jack Cassidy reported bucks are at the end of the rut in southeast Colorado, but still fighting for does. His client last night shot a green-scored 179 3/8 buck (I’m attempting to get a photo). Hunters are picking through bucks with beaten up racks looking for shooters, so that nearly 180 deer was a miracle, Cassidy says, with only a drop tine busted off.

Chasing: Bucks are seeking and chasing hard, as reported above.

X-Factor: Decreasing opportunities out West as seasons draw near an end are nonetheless lucrative. The report remains the same: The biggest bucks are still making mistakes and are looking for receptive does. Hunt accordingly.