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Regional Rut Update: Peak Whitetail Activity Report for Late November

This report is full of big bucks, crazy rut activity, and tactics for late-November success.

Regional Rut Update: Peak Whitetail Activity Report for Late November

Depending on where you live, the clock may be ticking on opportunities to hang your tag on a big, rutting buck. (Photo by Matt Hansen)

If you're running on fumes in your so-far unsuccesful search for that buck of a lifetime, this is your time. The annual deer rut has reached its peak in many places across the country, with in-the-mood bucks chasing hot does from Texas to Vermont. So, bundle up, put in the time and get 'er done this week.

This is Week 6 of the Game & Fish Regional Rut Update, exclusive weekly rut reports from the field from whitetail contributors Dustin Prievo (East), Brandon Butler (Midwest), and Josh Honeycutt (South). Click here for last week's report. This week's report includes:

  • In the East, colder weather has more bucks own their feet and actively looking for hot does. Prievo suggests focussing on trails, transition areas and bedding areas in the mornings and on primary food sources in the evenings are your best bets.
  • In the Midwest, the rut action has been hot across the region for more than a week, Butler says, with bucks "still running does like bird dogs behind a covey of quail." Concentrating on funnel areas, cattails, tree cover and where does are congregating are all good options.
  • In the South, the rut is waning in some places and just starting up in others, Honeycutt reports, though some locations might not see the peak of the rut until the new year. Right now, bucks are chasing does from Texas to Georgia.
Regional Rut Update Big Buck
Scroll down to read about Jason Rudden's super-wide Maryland buck. (Photo courtesy of Jason Rudden)

East Report

Bucks Ranging Far and Wide to Find Remaining Hot Does; You Should Do the Same

Although the week started out fairly quiet for most hunters in the northern part of the East, it appears bucks are back on their feet and desperately seeking any hot doe they can find. In New Hampshire and Vermont, hunters reported seeing most mature buck activity from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Hunting seemed to be a little more difficult, and activity overall was lower, but hunters are capitalizing by sitting longer in the mornings and hunting the does in the evenings.

In the mId-Atlantic, we finally had the cold snap and weather we needed to get deer on their feet and moving, and hunters reported a great deal of mature buck movement during daylight. Many hunters who were hunting open fields had late-evening success; most of the morning and midday success was around bedding and transition areas. There were several sightings of bucks tending does in thicker, secluded areas during daylight hours, too. Many hunters are reporting fewer trail camera images during both daylight and nighttime, but have seen a dramatic increase in deer movement throughout their properties.


Toward the latter part of the week, I had one of my target bucks on three separate trail cameras on two different properties a mile and a half apart in a generally flat, agricultural area. This tells me that the number of does in estrous is declining and that mature bucks will be on their feet trying to find one.


To succeed in the week ahead, stock up on toe and hand warmers, put on some extra insulated clothes and fight the urge to quit. Your best bets will be hunting trails, transition areas and bedding areas in the late mornings, and focusing on the primary food sources for the evening hunts. Bucks are going to be actively looking for hot does, and as the majority of the does have been bred or have come out of the 72-hour breeding window, bucks are scrambling to find one. If you hunt the does, you're liable to find yourself a buck nearby. — Dustin Prievo

TAGGED OUT

Super-Wide Maryland Stud Goes Down

Jason Rudden Maryland Buck
Jason Rudden's big 9-pointer had a 24-inch inside spread. (Photo courtesy of Jason Rudden)
  • Hunter: Jason Rudden
  • Date: Nov. 14, 2022
  • Location: Anne Arundel County, Md.
  • Method: Compound Bow
  • Stats: 9 points; 24-inch inside spread

Jason Rudden had never laid eyes on this buck until his trail camera captured three images of it on the night of Nov. 13. The following morning, Rudden was on stand as day broke. Early action consisted of two small bucks passing through the area. Then, around 8:10 a.m., Rudden noticed this buck coming across a creek, but thought it was a different deer he had been after.

Everything happened quickly after that, and the buck came in fast despite seeming tired and winded. He put his head down, grabbed a few bites of corn and kept moving. Rudden stopped the buck at 25 yards and sent a perfect shot into his chest.

Rudden gave the buck an hour before climbing down and finding it roughly 60 yards away. It wasn't until he noticed that the rack was sticking two feet above the ground that he realized this was the deer he'd had on camera the night before. — Dustin Prievo


Rut Crash Course: Deer-Calling Strategies for Rutting Whitetails (Video)

  • Know when to use grunts, bleats and snort wheezes to score during the deer rut. Crash Course host Mark Kayser shows you how.

Midwest Report

Rut Action is Red Hot; Hunt Funnels, Cattails, Tree Cover and Doe Hangouts

If you're still holding an unfilled buck tag, then you and the monster you're after probably look similar by now. Kind of haggard, worn down, out of breath and ready for the madness to end. The rut has been in full swing across the Midwest for over 10 days now. If you're not wasting time—meaning you're out there all day—and haven't filled a tag, you must be running on fumes. Don't give up, though; bucks are still running does like bird dogs behind a covey of quail.

Out in Nebraska, Zach Warnken, an archery technician and hunting specialist at Cabela's in Kearney, says their rut activity picked up kind of late. “It didn't really start until the middle of last week, but it's definitely in full swing now," he says. "Bucks are chasing does all over the place. I've seen a few big ones that have been taken in the Buffalo Hunting Unit around Broken Bow."

With hundreds of thousands of bucks having already hit the dirt across the Midwest, you might think you've missed your chance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now is when the bucks still out there start searching far and wide for any does left to breed. They travel farther and more often.

Recommended


Set up where you can cover multiple travel lanes. Hunt funnels. And for goodness sake, if you know where a bunch of does are hunkered down, that's where you need to be.

North Dakota has a reputation as one of the premier states where you can kill a velvet buck. It should also be known as sleeper spot for killing a giant during the rut. Fargo resident Kyle Agre, a partner in Brewer-Agre Outdoors, may be a professional angler, but he also knows a thing or two about deer hunting.

"Right now, the North Dakota bucks are in the full rut," he says. "I mean, it is in full swing. We've had a lot of snow, so deer patterns are becoming more regular. A good tip is to key in on edges of wetlands that are now frozen. Bucks cruise along the cattail areas. Out in the plains, hunters should key on areas with tree cover, like in coulees and river bottoms."

The entire region is on fire right now. While firearms seasons in some states are wrapping up, others have yet to begin. Whether or not gun seasons should be open during the rut is a big debate among deer hunters.

In Ohio, for example, only youth hunters have had a chance to shoot deer with firearms so far. During the special two-day season, which wrapped up this past weekend, more than 9,500 deer were harvested. John Wallace, a regional director for Delta Waterfowl, whose son just killed a buck bigger than any he's ever taken (see below), thinks it's great. — Brandon Butler

Read Last Week's Regional Rut Update

TAGGED OUT

Youth Gun Hunter Bags Buckeye Bruiser

Adam Wallace Ohio Buck
Adam Wallace, 13, shot this 8-pointer on Nov. 19 near Tipp City, Ohio. It was the biggest buck he has ever harvested. (Photo courtesy of Adam Wallace)
  • Hunter: Adam Wallace
  • Date: Nov. 19, 2022
  • Location: Tipp City, Ohio
  • Method: Rifle
  • Stats: 8 points (not scored)

John Wallace has dedicated his career to conservation. As Delta Waterfowl's Regional Director for Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, Wallace puts a lot of rubber on the road and spends more nights away from home than he'd like. The proud father shares three children, Adam (13), Wade (12) and Claire (8) with his wife, Jamie. The only thing Wallace cares about more than conservation is his family, and last weekend was a big one for the Wallace clan.

Since Wade had a football tournament out of town, John enlisted his outdoor mentor, his uncle Kevin Krimm, to take Adam out for Ohio's youth firearms season.

"Uncle Kevin was pretty much my outdoors influence," Wallace ways. "He introduced me to hunting deer, ducks, squirrels and pretty much everything outdoors. So, to have him now taking my children outdoors, it really means the world to me."

Great-uncle Kevin and Adam were only in the blind 10 minutes before two does appeared in the cut cornfield they were hunting. Another pair of does showed up around 30 minutes later.

"Uncle Kevin told me he could see five deer out of his window," Adam says. "We watched two small bucks fighting. Then another buck comes out into the field. Then my buck showed up, and we knew he was big. He chased a doe, then he had to chase all the bucks away because they were trying to steal his doe. He zigged and zagged out in the field, then he mounted the doe. After he got off of her, I shot him, but he went right back to chasing the doe. Then he started wobbling and going in a circle, and I knew I got him. It's the biggest deer I've ever been up and close to. It's bigger than anything my dad has shot."

John Wallace's children all have lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for Missouri, the state the family recently left to return to Wallace's hometown to be close to family. His familiar connections have allowed his boys to get right into the action in Ohio, though.

"We are very blessed to have family and friends who open their property up to these boys," Wallace says.

Another cool twist is John's cousin, Ernie Wallace, owns and operates Central Flyway Taxidermy. He'll be mounting Adam's deer, thus making this experience a total family affair. — Brandon Butler

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South Report

Rut Stage Depends on Where You’re Hunting; Hot Action Reported in Texas, Georgia

As we enter the last days of November, the rut is beginning to wane in some places and just start to fire up in others. And there’s still some southern locales that won't be seeing rutting activity until December, January and as late as February.

HuntStand’s Will Cooper lives in central Texas. He's seen daylight deer movement increase significantly throughout the past week or so, with a recent cold front really boosting deer movement.

"We have seen bucks hot on the trails of does," Cooper reports. "We have also seen bucks that were locked on a single doe break off and really cover some ground. Cell cameras have been lighting up with bucks we've seen before and those we haven't. Conditions are great to get out and kill a giant right now."

Josh Kinser is also in Texas, but farther south. He's seeing a little bit of sparring and reports scraping activity is picking up, too.

Up in Oklahoma, outdoor writer John Radzwilla is in Pushmataha County, which is in the mountains in the southeastern part of the state. He reports that the rut started a little bit late this year, but deer are beginning to chase now.

"We had a drought, and then heavy rains," he says. "When the rains came through it dropped the acorns all at once, really concentrating the deer quickly."

Whitetail Properties' Bart Shirley is in Louisiana. He reports younger bucks are beginning to make scrapes, with a few mature bucks starting to open some as well. Overall, that region is in the pre-rut phase.

To the east, in Mississippi, Whitetail Properties’ Blake Charles says the deer herd is very visible this year due to a lagging mast crop.

"It seems more mature deer have been harvested earlier than normal, and it's because of the lack of acorns," Charles says. "All the deer we have harvested so far have not had any fat on them. Food plots are the key to success as the hunting season progresses. Our rut usually starts in late December."

Lindsay Thomas, with the National Deer Alliance, is in southeastern coastal Georgia. Thomas reports their rut has passed and their portion of the state is in the post-rut phase.

"The amount of scrape activity I see on my cameras has dropped way off. It’s getting to be time to move those cameras to food plots," Thomas says. "The abundance of early water oak acorns kept deer off food plots, but they are moving to them strongly now. I'm seeing bucks feeding in plots with does without bothering them much, so bucks are moving on to post-rut eating and recovery. Food sources are good for seeing bucks now, assuming there are any you haven't pressured too hard already."

The remainder of Georgia is just now getting to the best part of the rut. Michael Lee is in southern Georgia, and he reports the rut is currently wide open there. According to Lee, the bucks are really moving right now. Hunt Club’s Phillip Culpepper has had similar observations.

"Judging by my cameras in Georgia, the deer are really going hard—there's a lot of chasing and fighting," he says.

Josh Raley, with the "How-To Hunt Deer" podcast, also lives and hunts in Georgia and reports bucks have been chasing hard for about a week.

"Seems like a couple of the big boys are starting to settle down with the first couple of hot does, and things are noticeably slower this past weekend than last," he says. "A lot of bucks hit the dirt last weekend."

Raley also hunts in southern Alabama. He reports those deer are on full early-season patterns.

"Acorns are king, if they’re dropping," Raley says. "Food plots are being used, but not as heavy as they will be once the acorns dry up. We still won't see any real rut activity here until late January or early February."

Wildlife photographer Tes Jolly also spends a lot of time in east-central Alabama.

"The rut is a long way off, mid-January to February," she says. "They are doing some sparring and establishing territory. There are some scrapes and rubs, but the real chase is a while off. They are fattening up on a bountiful acorn crop right now."

Brody Thomas with Whitetail Properties is in south-central Alabama. "We'll start seeing some pre-rut action the week after Christmas, with our peak around the second week of January. I'm starting to find some scrapes now." — Josh Honeycutt

TAGGED OUT

Georgia Giant Hits the Dirt at Last Light

Hunter Rotarius Georgia Buck
Hunter Rotarius shot this huge Georgia whitetail along the edge of a cut cotton field. (Photo courtesy of Hunter Rotarius)
  • Hunter: Hunter Rotarius
  • Date: Nov. 17, 2022
  • Location: South-central Georgia
  • Method: Rifle
  • Stats: 168 3/4 inches (gross)

Georgia's Hunter Rotarius keeps a detailed inventory of the bucks on the property where he hunts. However, he had never laid eyes on this bruiser buck until the day he shot it.

On Nov. 17, after lunch, he climbed into an elevated blind along the edge of a cut cotton field. It was cold and crisp, so he suspected it might be a good afternoon.

With about 15 minutes of legal light left, he saw the big buck milling on the field edge. The buck was out beyond his comfort zone, so he waited patiently for it to move closer. When it got to within 150 yards, Rotarius calmed his nerves as best he could and squeezed off the shot, dropping the deer. However, the buck was still moving so Rotarius put a second round into it just in case.

"This deer is something I have dreamed of since I was introduced to hunting around the age of 4," Rotarius says. "I never thought I would have an opportunity at a buck of this quality, but having it was genuinely a life-changing experience. I'll remember this day and hunt forever."

Rotarius credits his dad, Jimmy Rotarius, and hunting buddy, Clay Turner, for the tireless work they do on the property to grow big deer.

"Without them, I would not have gotten a chance at this quality of a deer," he says. — Josh Honeycutt

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