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.
Credit goes to our Plains reporter David Draper for the title of this week’s national roundup; in one of his typically thorough entries, Draper notes that the Plains States are a few days away from “full blown mayhem.” This is a killer descriptor of rutting behavior as it nears its peak, and witnessing such action is something I look forward to every fall.
Draper brings up another interesting point in his reports; that deer activity remains excellent despite high winds. This is an excellent observation. Under normal conditions, high wind speeds can nearly immobilize whitetails, but I know several very good deer hunters who make it a point to head to the field on a windy day during the rut. Though I’ve never heard a precise explanation as to why a windy day would result in better deer activity, I respect the hunters who make the observation. My own experience on hunting during a windy day is about 50/50; I’ve had some great action, and I’ve sat all day and not seen a single animal. I’d be anxious to hear your own field observations on this topic.
And keep in mind that the definition of a “high wind” is relative. Today I leave for a week-long bowhunt in western Kansas, where whitetails move freely in wind speeds that would put Minnesota deer on their bellies. Deer that live where high wind speeds are common simply learn to buckle down and move, as waiting for a calm day on the prairie could result in starvation (or at least severe muscle cramping)!
Mid South reporter Will Brantley submitted an excellent video tip on using urine based scents now–even if you want to shoot a doe. Bucks are the critters who show up on all the packaging, but the reality is that all whitetails are curious about–and attracted to–urine scents. Over the years I’ve had many does respond to drag lines, mock scrapes and scent lines. And on a few occasions those does have dragged a buck toward my setup.
Brantley’s tip provided a nice setup for Eric Bruce’s report, which opened the question of whether you should shoot a doe during the rut. I’ve heard many hunters struggle with this dilemma and am convinced there is no easy answer. If you’re looking for a buck, having does around is almost always a good thing, and shooting a doe can potentially disturb an area that might soon yield a trophy. Overall, however, I’ve come to feel that shooting a doe during the rut is far from catastrophic, and if your hunting time is limited, you should absolutely take the first best opportunity that arises. Like many hunters, I’ve passed on does thinking that I had plenty of time to notch an antlerless tag–only to find that late-season does are tougher to find (and kill) than a trophy buck.
In general, the rut is poised on the brink of greatness (and mayhem) across the country, and we look forward to getting some great photos and hearing your success stories in the exciting days ahead!