Overall Activity Status: I have a mixed bag of reports this week. Some sources in north Texas report good movement and multiple buck sightings, while others report few to no sightings in the same area. Bucks that disappeared have reappeared on trail cameras, and frequent faces are missing. During the rut, virtually every buck will make at least one excursion outside its home range, traveling anywhere from 1 to 5 miles. So it’s possible to lose track of familiar bucks and see new bucks you’ve never seen before. Hunting can be hot in one area and ice cold just a few miles away, ice cold. Most folks in north Texas and the Panhandle agree the rut is on and gaining momentum.
Fighting: I’m hearing no new reports of actual fights, but many reports of quality bucks missing tines. Any time you hunt in an area that has a close buck-to-doe ratio, there’s going to be more competition between bucks. Broken tines are the result.
Rub Making: There are no fresh rubs, but I’ve been exploring some new areas and finding rubs from earlier in the season. All of them are on mesquite trees.
Scrape Making:** I recently watched a young 8-point approach a scrape I’d freshened up with doe-in-heat lure. The 1 ½-year-old buck circled the scrape, obviously curious, but seemed more intimidated. He never worked the scrape, but just sniffed it from downwind. I’ve watched older bucks (3 ½-year-olds) work the same scrape several times in the last two weeks.
Chasing: My friend Kelley Sims is hunting a big 10-point. He’s seen the buck several times. Most recently, the big-bodied Panhandle buck chased a doe within 30 yards of his tripod, but Kelley had no opportunity for a shot with his bow. According to Kelley, the buck was completely enthralled with the girls.
Daytime Movement: Again, reports are mixed. In the past week, I’ve seen fewer does and bucks in places where just ten days ago I saw several quality bucks in daylight. In western Oklahoma, Shawn Hoover reports few deer sightings. I’m not sure if the bucks have relocated, or if they are locked up in the brush with a hot doe.
Estrous Sign: Kyle Barbour, hunting in the eastern Texas Panhandle, tells of seeing a doe bedded off the highway near his hunting land. When she jumped up, he saw that a fine buck was with her. The pair ran into his hunting area. If that doe is in heat and stays on the land, she could really amp up the buck activity there. At this time of year, if you see a single doe, look closely all around her for a tending buck. One could even be bedded nearby.
X Factor: November 17 was the opening day of Texas’ Panhandle mule deer season. I’ve already heard of several big bucks going down in broken canyon country and near agriculture, such as wheat or milo stubble fields. Texas’ mule deer season for the Trans-Pecos counties opens on November 23. November 17 was also the opening of Oklahoma’s rifle season. My friend Shawn Hoover, above, killed this 156-inch, 10-point whitetail in western Oklahoma with his single shot rifle on opening day. It was the only deer he saw that morning.