Overall activity status: I apologize for the quality of the photograph here, which was e-mailed to me from Jeremy Atkins of Big and J but I think it’s worth featuring here to show that, in eastern Nebraska at least, big bucks are starting to pay more attention to does during the daylight hours. In southwest Kansas, Denton Rich of Mule Creek Outfitters (620-770-1257) reports “from Saturday to today bucks are actively checking does. Most bucks’ necks on camera are swollen and the deer are becoming less nocturnal. Several bucks are showing up that I haven’t seen before.” Farther north in the Dakotas, Spencer Neuharth checked in to say his West River hunt wasn’t successful, but “the bucks we did observe from afar were chasing does. Both muleys and whitetails.” All this is clear indication that we are ramping up to full rut in the next week to 10 days.
Fighting: Denton Rich also reports that bucks in his area are more aggressive and he’s see a few broken points.
Rub/Scrape Making: Across the region rubs and scrapes are showing up in the woods overnight. South of Kansas City, Brenden Mick of Twin Chimney Outfitters said via e-mail “Fresh sign everywhere. Necks are swelling up.”
Daytime Movement: As the photo shows, some big bucks are out after sunup, but most of my contacts reported the bucks that are seeing during daylight are sub-adults. Expect the big boys to start moving more as we close in on peak rut.
Estrous Signs: “Haven’t seen any does in heat yet but don’t think it will be long before we start seeing a few,” said Denton Rich.
X Factor: Should you call during the rut? That all depends. In the past week Atkins said he’s had three encounters with mature bucks in eastern Nebraska and “all have shown no interest in calling techniques.” Yet Mick says a hunter near him in eastern Kansas “rattled up a toad this past week.” Calling is always a gamble, but in my opinion, it’s worth trying as all it takes is that one “toad” to make you a believer.