November 03, 2022
By Game & Fish Staff
As November arrives, rut activity in the deer woods is getting both hunters and bucks excited, as the chase phase of the annual rut is beginning in many places. And, as you'll see in our Tagged Out stories below, the end of October wasn't too shabby either.
This is Week 3 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, bucks are being seen more during daylight hours; a little later in the morning and before sunset. Bucks are becoming more active seeking does, and "the deer woods should begin to come alive," Prievo reports.
- In the Midwest, the waiting game continues, but activity is increasing, and bucks are staying tighter to does. "The second week of November is when the magic should happen," Butler reports.
- In the South, rut activity is spotty in many places in the biodiverse region, Honeycutt reports, though things are picking up in several states. "It’s a good time to be sneaking to the woods every chance you get."
Scrapes, Daytime Activity Increase; Focus on Transition Areas; Try Grunting
In the northern part of the region, the past week has brought more sightings of mature bucks on their feet during daylight hours, with several hunters reporting seeing 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-year-old bucks staying out later in the morning and showing up a little earlier in the evenings.
Hunters who are sitting at field edges have seen scrapes nearly double in the last week, and although the majority of the deer are still focused on food, there have been reports of bucks actively looking for hot does.
This has also been a busy week for hunters posted up near known bedding and transitional areas, as it seems that most of the activity is taking place inside the timber. That said, expect for the rules to begin flying out the window this week as the chase phase begins to ramp up.
The beginning of the past week started rather slowly in the Mid-Atlantic. Those sitting over cut corn or bean fields saw that the whitetails' primary focus was still on bed and food. As the week progressed, however, a switch seemed to flip for the younger bucks. By the end of the week, even the 3 1/2-year-olds could be seen bumping does in the fields and throughout the first two hours of daylight. Young bucks were spotted running through hedgerows and timber stands and along ridge tops, actively looking for hot does. Sparring between 2 1/2- and 3 1/2-year-olds was observed, but hard fighting had yet to begin.
Mature bucks are beginning to expand their ranges. More bucks are showing up on properties where they hadn’t been seen previously as they venture out, mostly through the night, to see what other areas have in stock. The end of last week provided a strong indicator that the upcoming week will be a great time to be in the deer woods to catch bucks on their feet during daylight.
Set yourself up for success by hunting transitional areas in the mornings. Those in the northern part of the region may want to begin tucking closer to the downwind side of bedding areas, while those in the Mid-Atlantic can expect heavy traffic between bedding and food. Consider making sequence grunts—imitating a buck trying to stop a doe—to pull curious bucks from surrounding areas. The week ahead will be fun and the deer woods should begin to come alive as bucks begin actively seeking out the first does to come into heat.—Dustin Prievo
Maine Micro-Property Success
- Hunter: Stephen Bennett
- Date: Oct. 29, 2022
- Location: Lincoln, Maine
- Method: Centerfire Rifle
- Stats: 11 points, 201 pounds
Stephen Bennett killed this 201-pound, 11-point whitetail with his 7mm-08 on Oct. 29, in Lincoln, Maine. Bennett said he started hunting the small, 20-acre property where the buck was shot 7 years ago, when his father Scott obtained the landowner's permission.
Last Saturday, Scott opted to hunt across the street from the property while Stephen made his way up the beaten tote road roughly a quarter of a mile to his stand. On his way, he set out a Tink's Scent Bomb, which became an integral part of the hunt.
After being in the stand for roughly 20 minutes, the younger Bennett heard something coming directly at him. The buck had his eyes set on a doe, and before long they began running around the opposite side of Stephen’s stand. However, the buck made a mistake when it stopped and offered Bennett a shot. The massive Maine monarch made it 50 yards before going down.—Dustin Prievo
Rut Crash Course: How to Make, Then Hunt Mock Scrapes (Video)
- The key to a productive mock scrape is placement.
Pre-Rut Going Strong; Main Event Still Days or Weeks Away
The waiting game continues, but the clock is ticking down. Across the Midwest, hunters are on edge for the seeking phase of the rut to kickoff. Trail cameras are showing bucks hanging a little tighter to does, trying to get a whiff of the invitation that it's time to go. Smaller bucks are trying to jump the gun and are showing unwelcomed interest in does. The big boys are saving their energy while waiting until the time is right. By the end of the week, the action should really pick up.
Bill Konway, a well-known outdoor industry photographer, has a couple hundred acres in eastern Kentucky. This is pretty rough country without a lot of agriculture, and he's experienced very little rut activity so far.
"The signs are there," Konway says. "I have rubs in the areas where the bucks rub each year, and I've found a few scrapes, but none of them are hot yet. I get excited when I see a deer, or catch one on camera, running with its tongue hanging out. To me, that's when the rut is kicking and you need to stay in the woods all day. We're definitely not there yet."
In corn country, Dan Stefanich, who guides for Boneyard Outfitters near Rend Lake in south-central Illinois, says the pre-rut is going strong. There is plenty of sign out there, but bucks are tough to come by because they're hiding in the standing corn. Hunters should be excited to know the crops are being harvested as fast as possible.
"There's still a lot of corn standing, but the farmers are getting it out," Stefanich says. "Once it's down and the bucks are more concentrated in the woods, I expect the action to really pick up. The second week of November is when the magic should happen."
Jay's Sporting Goods in Gaylord, Mich., is the hunting hub for the northern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Mark Copeland is the store director and an avid deer hunter. He says the weather has not been friendly to northern Michigan deer hunters so far this fall. While they got some snow in the middle of October, Copeland says it quickly melted. He adds that deer haven't been moving much, but he hopes the cooler temperatures and light rain they're expecting this week gets them up on their feet.
The deer he is hearing about from hunters coming through the shop are typically being killed in the early morning. He's not hearing reports of big bucks chasing yet. He thinks cooler temperatures and maybe some lake-effect snow should trigger some action.—Brandon Butler
Read Last Week's Regional Rut Update
Trad Bow Toad Falls in Kansas
- Hunter: Justin Gibson
- Date: Oct. 28, 2022
- Location: Madison, Kan.
- Method: Recurve Bow
- Stats: 11 points; 158 7/8-inch gross score
Four years ago, Justin Gibson decided it was time for a new challenge. He hung up his compound bow and began shooting traditional archery exclusively. In that time, he’s tagged four nice Kansas bucks, with the most recent being a main-frame 9-pointer with two additional scoreable points. He arrowed the 158 7/8-inch buck on Oct. 28 from a treestand on the edge of a standing bean field. As it turned out, Gibson had at least three years of history with the buck.
"After I shot him, I went through old pictures and I definitely have photos of him from 2019," Gibson says. "He was at least 3 1/2 years old then. I have pictures of him from last year when I tried to get my wife a shot at him. From last year to this year, he put on a lot of mass and just got bigger overall."
Gibson says the younger bucks in his area are pushing does around, but the big boys haven't started getting aggressive yet. When he shot this buck, there were six does in the field in front of him, but the buck didn’t have any interest in them at all. He thinks the chasing is going to begin in earnest this week or next.
While some may balk at the notion of relying on traditional archery equipment while pursuing big deer, Gibson has never regretted moving away from his compound bow.
"Hunting with a trad bow is all about the satisfaction of the challenge," he says. "There are no sights, and I have to get in closer. I shot a 161-inch a couple of years ago, so it's working."—Brandon Butler
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Rut Activity Still Spotty, Though Picking Up in Several States
Deer season continues across the South with conditions and deer behavior changing throughout the region. As we march deeper into fall, the rut continues to take shape. The hottest rut activity is in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, but other states offer signs of increasing activity.
Being a biodiverse region, the South has always presented hunters with a hodgepodge of rut dates ranging from July to February. According to Brodie Swisher, an outdoor writer in Tennessee, things really ramped up over the past weekend.
"Shooter bucks showed up on trail cams all day long for every hunting buddy I talked to," Swisher says. "It had been nothing but young bucks the last few weeks, but that has all changed. It’s a good time to be sneaking to the woods every chance you get."
By contrast, Great Days Outdoors' Joe Baya is in east-central Alabama, where the start of rut behavior is still months away.
"It's still early-season feed-to-bed patterns and heavy acorn crops," he says. "Deer are mostly focused there. I saw 14 this morning, all on that pattern."
A review of historical rut data provided by wildlife agencies and DNR biologists provides insight into areas where rut activity is on or just a few days away. In North Carolina, numerous counties in the southeastern and northeastern parts of the state should expect to see rut action any day now. Counties on watch include Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland, Robeson, Bladen, Columbus, Brunswick, Pender, Onslow, Jones, Lenoir, Greene, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrell, Gates, Hertford and Warren.
In South Carolina, the rut is beginning to wane in coastal counties and has yet to ramp up in the northwestern-most counties, but most of the rest of the state is starting to see rut action increase.
In Georgia, the southeastern counties are beginning to see rubs being hit and scrapes opening up. Expect to start seeing potential rutting behaviors from the Elbert County area southward, and as far west as Putnam, Baldwin, Berrien, Lowndes and other nearby counties. The rut will gradually progress westward and northward from now through January.
In Arkansas, numerous counties are beginning to see signs of the rut. These include Craighead, Randolph, Independence, Izard, Cleburne, Van Buren, Searcy, Conway, Pope, Saline, Hot Spring, Clark, Nevada, Garland, Yell, Logan, Sebastian, Madison and Washington.
Louisiana hunters are starting to see some rutty whitetails, too. The southwestern parishes have seen rubbing, scraping and some chasing for days now—weeks in some spots. However, northwestern parishes are starting to hop, too, and it won’t be long before certain northeastern and deep southeastern parishes will get in on the rut action.
Dropping down to Florida, the bulk of the state’s rut is over. However, select counties around the Winter Haven area are seeing mature bucks chasing does. The same is true for the easternmost part of the Panhandle.
Lastly, in Texas, a handful of central and eastern counties are exhibiting signs of the rut. However, a much greater portion of Texas remains weeks or months away from true rut activity.—Josh Honeycutt
Mississippi Hunter Arrows Unique Trophy
- Hunter: Justin Develle
- Date: Oct. 22, 2022
- Location: Madison County, Miss.
- Method: Compound Bow
- Stats: 130 inches
Very few deer hunters have harvested a wild, free-ranging whitetail wearing an ear tag, but that's exactly what Mississippi deer hunter Justin Develle did on Oct. 22.
"In 2017, the Mississippi State University Deer Lab asked us to participate in the buck movement study, along with neighbors with property in the Big Black River corridor in Canton, Miss.," Develle says. "They tagged roughly 20 bucks in the area and put ear tags and GPS collars on them to track movement patterns for the two-year program."
Develle’s buck was tagged in the summer of 2018 as a 4 1/2-year-old deer, and Develle has been getting photos of him ever since. Each year, the buck has been a main-frame 10-point. In 2020, it started growing a drop tine. This year, Develle finally crossed paths with it.
"I hunt with my two best friends at one of their family farms," Develle says. "We do everything together. Hunting is something we live for down here. More specifically, bowhunting."
After shooting four does, it was time for Develle to punch a buck tag. On Oct. 22, with the wind out of the southeast, warm temperatures and overcast skies, Develle contemplated the right move. His friend Ashley sat with him that evening to video the hunt and possibly shoot a doe if the opportunity arose.
"The weather has been so dry that no food plots were planted," Develle says. "The deer were hungry, and I knew they would be coming to acorns."
Soon after settling in, several does stepped out, and Ashley shot one of them. It was now Develle's turn to shoot. With about 10 minutes of light left, they spotted a big deer walking across the field.
"I knew it was a big-bodied deer," he says. "I almost didn't think it was real. As he got within 20 yards, I saw the ear tag and knew it was game on."
He drew back, settled the pin and took the 13-yard, quartering-away shot. Once down on the ground, the two friends found the arrow covered in blood and the big buck 60 yards from where he was shot.
"I've killed Pope and Young bucks, but this one just meant more," Develle says. "To kill an old warrior that never daylighted, that always seemed to stay out of harm's way—that was priceless."
The buck was aged at 8 1/2 years old.—Josh Honeycutt