Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream’s Whitetails columnist and writes for the website’s Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.
Nov. 22–Overall Activity Status:** Peak breeding is starting to wind down in the region, but there are still bucks tending does. With firearms seasons in full swing across much of the north central area, this last-of-the-main-event rutting action has helped hunters shoot some monster deer. Among them is the giant non-typical pictured above. The buck was shot by Kyle Bolen in Noble County, Indiana. The Hoosier State has been on fire this fall, and fellow writer/whitetail nut Dean Weimer reports intense rutting activity there. Thanks to Dean for sending this photo, and warm congrats to Kyle!
Fighting: In areas with significant gun hunting pressure, fighting is going to wane. Bucks will limit their movements to avoid hunting pressure. In other areas, some spectacular clashes will occur as mature bucks will increase their efforts to find does.
Rub Making:** Another activity that will drop off in frequency and intensity now. However, any fresh rubs found now are highly significant, as they indicate an active buck.
Scrape Making: Little change from last week’s report: The majority of scrapes are yesterday’s news right now…but find an actively-worked scrape and you’ve hit a gold mine. The best ones will be located in or near security cover.
Chasing: Young bucks are starting to show signs of fatigue. They don’t have the stamina their dads and grandpas do…Which means that when a doe is getting harassed now, her pursuer is usually impressive. My Iowa contacts report solid chasing activity at times, with big bucks being the main players.
Daytime Movement: Afternoons seem the best right now, with a full moon hanging in the daytime sky. Again, in pressured areas normal feeding and rutting activity will be largely at night or in dense-cover areas.
Estrous Signs:** On a bowhunt in Iowa last week, a good friend watched a doe walk down a scrape line, pause at the largest scrape, and urinate on her hocks. The doe lingered near the scrapes. Within a half-hour a good buck appeared and bred the doe. After the pair left, two other bucks came in and followed the doe’s scent trail. She must have been content with her original suitor, as the same pair looped back past my friend’s stand an hour later. The buck bred the doe for a second time as my buddy watched!
X Factor: A significant cold front, accompanied by some snow, is expected to push into the northern areas of the region just prior to Thanksgiving Day. This will certainly get whitetails motivated to feed heavily, and sign will be evident if the snow fall is significant. This could result in excellent deer movement and hunting opportunity if you haven’t filled a tag.