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. 30–Overall Activity Status: Gun seasons are either in full swing or winding down across much of the region. This has impacted rutting activity in some areas, particularly those that see heavy pressure. That said, I’ve had reports of bucks running does from Minnesota and Illinois hunters this week. In each instance, the area had thick cover or light hunter activity.
Fighting: I rattled in three different bucks on a Kansas bowhunt last week. Though the rut is typically slightly later there, my experience reinforced my opinion that the sounds of sparring and fighting will attract bucks throughout the season. I’ve not talked to any hunters who’ve rattled in bucks lately, but I am never without my rattling horns.
Rub Making: Not a lot of fresh rubs being made right now, if my scouting sessions are any indication. But I expect that to change in the near future. With the main breeding done, many bucks will return to core areas, where they’ll freshen rubs. Also, as deer shift toward early-winter feeding areas, look for fresh rubs to appear.
Scrape Making: Again, the peak of scraping is past us. But as the secondary rut kicks in during the coming days, look for fresh scrapes to appear, particularly in and around prime winter food sources.
Chasing:** We’ve passed the rut peak, so the temptation is to believe that chasing is over. Don’t believe it. Late-cycling does continue to enter estrous, and when they do, bucks will follow. This holds true despite open gun seasons. One of my friends was watching a secluded alfalfa field last week, hoping to take a doe. He was shocked when a young doe entered the field to feed, followed closely by a big 10-point. He was so surprised he managed to miss the open 65-yard shot!
Daytime Movement:** With firearms seasons winding down, expect to see an increasing amount of day time feeding and travel. Especially now, as the first serious cold weather of the season has arrived. And when the first snowfall blankets the easy feed, expect deer to get serious about moving about.
Estrous signs: I talked to a muzzleloader hunter yesterday who was entertained for a solid 45 minutes by a nice buck chasing a doe through a nearby cedar patch. Unfortunately, the buck never came close enough for a shot, but the action clearly showed that the doe was ready to breed and the buck was responding to the call.
X Factor:** I find myself sounding like a broken record here, but I keep getting reminders about the importance of patience and effort. There have been a lot of deer shot now, and its tempting to get discouraged and talk yourself out of maximum effort. But deer are still moving, the rut will continue, and hunters who stick with it can be rewarded. Wisconsin hunter Logan Marum (pictured) is Exhibit A this week. Logan took this fine 10-point during the state’s 9-day gun season while sitting on one of his favorite stands. As the old saw reminds us; You can’t shoot them sitting in camp!