The North Slows Down as the South Heats Up

Overall Activity Status: Marc Bartoskewitz shot the beautiful 11-point below with his bow. The 6 ½-year-old buck's rack scored 166 inches. Marc ambushed the buck from a tripod stand on the Temple Ranch in South Texas. The buck only went 50 yards after being hit through both lungs.

Fighting: My observation in the Panhandle is that there are more bucks missing antlers than there are those with intact racks. The peak rut is over in the Panhandle, and lots of bucks have broken antlers to prove they were fighters. I'm getting reports from South Texas of multiple fights as the rut gains steam every day. It's a good time to try rattling and grunting in South Texas.

Rub Making: I'm seeing old rubs at this point. Now that leaves have dropped, rubs are easier to see in places that were thick with vegetation earlier in the season.

Scrape Making: None reported.

Chasing: Robert Sanders, manager for the Temple Ranch in South Texas, reports that bucks are chasing. "If you could visualize the chasing on a bell curve, I'd say we are going up on the curve right now. It should get more intense over the next few days."

Daytime Movement: In the north where colder temperatures prevail, deer are active longer each day. And in the South, with the rut nearing its peak, a big buck could show up at any hour. But the first hour and last hour of the day are still best.

Estrous Sign: "The rut is over here," according to Shawn Hoover in the western Oklahoma Panhandle. I would say the same about the Texas Panhandle. I've seen does, as many as six, in groups again. During the rut I saw only singles and the occasional double together. But in South Texas, it's prime time right now. By contrast, mule deer in the Panhandle are chasing and the does are not evading like they did a week ago. I watched one big, mature 3x3 buck follow does at midday and mount one doe a couple of times. I got as close as 30 yards.

X Factor: It's been bitterly cold in the northern half of the region. I scouted one day and it was 9 degrees with a wind chill of -2. I lasted about one hour before I had to get warm. That cold weather means post-rut bucks will be keying in on food sources like corn feeders, wheat fields, alfalfa, etc.