Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela’s and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.
Overall Activity Status Nov. 16:** I finally got to spend a full weekend on stand and I couldn’t have picked a better time. While I was not able to hang my tag, I did get to witness about every type of rut behavior imaginable. We’re at full peak here in the Panhandle, and from the reports I’ve been hearing hunters across the Great Plains are seeing the same.
Fighting: For the most part, fighting seems to have tapered off as bucks are spending most of the time and energy searching for and tending does. That’s not to say there haven’t been some scuffles going on as cruising bucks encounter one another, typically on the trail of a hot doe. I did hear the snort-wheeze of buck in the brush near me, indicating he was itching for a fight.
Rub making: You would expect rubbing to be tapering off as well, but I watched a short-tined 10 pointer work a rub line right past my stand on Saturday. My friend Mark’s buck had antlers covered in fresh cedar sap. Safe to say, sitting on a rub line right now could lead you to a trophy buck.
Scrape making:** Not many scrapes on the property I was hunting as it is almost exclusively bedding area, with heavy cover in the form of switch grass, cedars and Russian olives. Kurt Grove, hunting in south-central Kansas did watch a mid-130 class buck work a scrape line near him late last week and also heard reports of a 150-inch buck in the area doing the same. Bucks are cruising right now, searching for a hot doe and rub lines are the first place they look.
Chasing:** Major chasing going on. Both Saturday and Sunday, the same little buck and doe ran circles around my stand, with the little buck grunting the whole time. The short 10 that I saw working a rub was later spotted by my hunting partner harassing a doe. The commotion that created attracted a bigger 10 point (above) that fell to my friend’s well-placed shot.
Daytime movement:** From pre-dawn until dark, there was deer moving at all hours of the day. Whenever I tried to climb out of my stand for a mid-day break, a deer would inevitably show up. On a quick drive to town on Sunday afternoon, I passed a number of does out in the field feeding, presumably because they’d spend the night fending off aggressive bucks.
Estrous signs: I saw countless fawns and yearlings by themselves, indicating does are running off youngsters as they come into estros. Does have been captured on camera frequenting scrapes, a sure sign the rut is on, and I heard a report of a hunter coming across a worn-out buck sleeping off a rough night in the fenceline bordering a field filled with does. One can only imagine what kind of night that guy had.
X Factor: From all indications, lockup is occurring across the region. Sunday morning, I watched a nice 8-point buck stand guard over a bedded doe, only leaving her side momentarily to run off smaller bucks and does. When she finally did stand, he stayed close by her side as she fed. The next week will be frustrating for some hunters as big bucks all but disappear. But don’t worry, soon they’ll be back to cruising, looking for another hot doe to breed. Patience and hard work will be rewarded for many lucky hunters this week.