I have a lot of tools at my disposal when I predict the Seven Best Days of the Rut each fall: average peak breeding days, moon phases and positions, harvest stats, tarot cards, a Magic 8-Ball, and a dart-tossing chimp that can usually hit a calendar. Oh, and a dash of common sense.
What I do not have is a weather app that will predict the exact wind, temperature, and precipitation conditions months in advance. If I’d had that tool when I called my shots back in July, I’d have tweaked the dates slightly; if the weather guys are correct, Nov. 18 is going to be one blustery monster across much of the region. Wind speeds are predicted to be in the 20 mph range, with gusts up to 40. Parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin (where the gun season opens Saturday) could get hammered with snow. In short, not ideal conditions for tagging a giant.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, hey, this is November. I’m going deer hunting in anything short of a hurricane. The other good news is that the weather front isn’t severe region-wide, and hunters not in the teeth of the storm could have fantastic hunting. Tony Sehman of Thunder Ridge Outfitters filed his report this morning. “It’s either feast or famine right now. If you’re sitting where the hot doe is hanging out, you’re seeing a dozen or more bucks in a single day. If you’re not with that hot doe, you may see only four deer all day. We had another warm, windy day on Thursday, and that will keep it slow, but with this big cold front coming, today and the next week will be huge. Bucks will be searching harder, and the cool weather will allow them to travel all day. We’ve not had rain for four weeks, so a rain may have them reworking scrapes, too. Finally, the drop in temps should get does feeding harder.”
Farther east, Eric Ashcraft of Close Encounter Whitetails in Utica, Ohio, says everything points to some awesome deer hunting ahead. “It’s shaping up to be a great time to hit the deer woods in Ohio. We’ve harvested some great bucks tending does in the past week, with the red moon really having the bucks active. One of my hunters killed a 164-inch bruiser that was tending a doe on the edge of our kill plots. Bucks that have been locked on does should be back out and searching hard. As the rut winds down, some bucks will also be hitting food sources to try and regain some strength that was lost over the past few weeks. Hunters need to plan on staying all day as buck activity should increase over next several days. Get out and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!”
Overall, I think we’ll have a mixed bag of success across the region on the fifth “Best Day” of 2016. Hunter success in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could be affected by a winter storm. But farther east and south, I stick by my guns that some giants will fall. The first Illinois shotgun season opens on the 18th, and I have no doubt some big bucks will be killed in the Prairie State. It remains the nation’s top Boone & Crockett location for a reason.