Overall activity status: Contact across the northern half of the region tell me that the rut action has slowed. “It seems to be toward the tail end of the rut here,” said Ty Bartoskewitz, ranch manager for the MT7 Ranch near Breckenridge. “A few bucks still chasing, but the action has slowed down.” In hindsight, most agree that November 16-23 was a really good week. I saw the most chasing on my turf before then, the first ten days in November. That’s a little earlier than most years.
Robert Sanders is manager of the Temple Ranch in south Texas, where the rut is typically later than the rest of the state. He had this to say: “The rut is definitely starting here in South Texas. The first few does are coming into heat now, therefore, chasing is much more obvious now than it will be in a week or so, when a large number of doe come into heat and each buck will be with a doe. There will be another increase in chasing in 1 ½ to 2 weeks (starting around the 12th-15th of December), when a lot of the does have already been bred and there are only a few does that are late coming into heat, leaving all the bucks chasing just a few does.”
Rub making: I walked a river corridor a few days ago, which is a section of land I stay out of during the season. But now that my tag is filled, I did some investigating and found a line of rubs on wrist- to finger-sized mesquites and other trees paralleling the riverbank. There were six rubs on less than 80 yards of a well-defined trail. Obviously, one or more bucks were using that trail frequently. It’s a good spot to remember for next year.
Scrape making: No reports from any of my contacts of fresh scrapes.
Chasing: Chasing seems to have peaked about two weeks ago in the northern half of the region. As reported above, it should intensify in the next ten days in south Texas.
Fighting: I have not witnessed a brawl this season, but lots of bucks are missing tines, ends of beams, etc. This is evidence that fighting was intense the last couple weeks. A mature buck I see often now has only a brow tune and four inches of beam on one side, and barely a brow tine on the other–his entire rack busted off from fighting.
Estrous Signs: The most common response from contacts this week about estrous signs was that does overall were skittish, especially when they were near any bucks. One reported seeing several does in a field with a lone buck. All of the does were nervous, as that buck would randomly chase or sniff them all.
Daytime movement: Whit Peterman, ranch manager for Falls Creek Ranch near Hico in central Texas, reported that deer activity was good, but few deer were going to fields and corn feeders. His lease hunters reported the same thing. They also reported that with windy conditions, deer activity slowed down. Look for bucks that will soon be entering the post rut-phase in the central and northern half of the state to regain their appetite, and start hitting corn feeders and wheat fields to regain lost calories from the rut. A couple of years ago, on a mid-December post-rut hunt near Abilene in North Texas, numerous bucks were visiting the corn feeders every day–as many as eight at one spot. That was on a ranch where maybe one or two bucks would visit a corn feeder. If you’re hunting a post-rut area in December, find a food source and guard it to see a buck.
X Factor: Now that we are in December, deer are starting to feel the hunting pressure. Get adventurous and explore some new country. Try new strategies, such as sitting near windmills or ponds. Gain some elevation and try to spot and stalk a deer. Or hunt that corner of the property where you never see deer. Bucks and does have a way of finding a safe spot away from traffic and pressure.