Overall Activity Status: The rut is basically over in the northern half of the region, except for a few very isolated reports of a buck seen chasing a doe. Meanwhile, in the brush country of South Texas, activity levels are ramping up daily. Friends who hunt that hotspot every year report that the time frame from Christmas to New Year’s is always a top week for seeing bucks on the prowl.

Fighting: None to report.

Rubs/Scrapes: A friend in north Texas recently snapped the accompanying photo of this massive rub. For a buck to rub a tree that big around, you can bet he’s got an equally impressive rack.

Chasing: Friend, biologist, and ranch manager Ty Bartoskewitz reports he saw 65 deer one evening in a wheat field just before Christmas near Breckenridge in North Texas. The mob included several bucks still chasing does. His report is the only one I’ve heard of bucks still chasing in north Texas. In the brush country of South Texas, the chase phase of the rut is really heating up. Rut hunting should be good from now until early January.

Daytime Movement: For most counties, the first hour of daylight in the morning is prime time. Afternoon activity seems earlier now than it was earlier in the season. I see deer popping out near food sources around 3 p.m. Corn feeders, wheat fields and food plots are good places to set up on for an afternoon sit; just be sure to get to your stand early. If you’re hunting way south in the brush country, be prepared for some all day activity in the peak of the rut.

Estrous Signs: Reports of chasing, mostly in deep south Texas, indicate does are coming into heat. That’s consistent with what most hunters report each year down near the Texas/Mexico border. The rut occurs much later there than it does in northern counties.

“X” Factor: The drought is still very real across the region. At my house in the Panhandle, we’ve had exactly .25-inches of rain since September 30. Ponds are dried up and even the creeks and rivers are very low. That puts added stress on the deer in the late season. And if we don’t start getting moisture soon, it will have a real effect on next year’s crop of fawns and size of buck antlers due to the lack of spring green up.
The mule deer rut is clicking in Texas and New Mexico. In the Texas Panhandle, I’ve watched virtually every muley buck I’ve seen, little ones and big, lip curl and bird-dog and chase muley does. A friend in eastern New Mexico reports seeing the same thing.