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Regional Rut Update: Informative Whitetail Research You'll Need This Weekend

Our contributors bring you the latest rut info to help you plan your hunts for the week ahead.

Regional Rut Update: Informative Whitetail Research You'll Need This Weekend

Scrapes and rubs are starting to show up in the deer woods across the whitetail's range. (Photo by John Pennoyer)

Get ready, whitetail hunters. Here comes the rut!

From pre-rut to post-rut, and all of the excitement in between, there's not a better time to harvest the buck of a lifetime. And we can give you a leg up on doing just that.

This Regional Rut Update is the first of seven exclusive weekly rut reports from the field with whitetail contributors Josh Honeycutt (South), Dustin Prievo (East), and Brandon Butler (Midwest). This week's report includes:

  • In the East, Prievo reports falling acorns have bucks on the move. Rut activity is low overall, but more prevalent in northern areas of the region.
  • In the South, Honeycutt says most of the rut activity in the region has been seen from Louisiana to Georgia.
  • In the Midwest, "the rut is about to roar," writes Butler. But we're not quite there yet.
Alexis Moore Pennsylvania Buck
This Pennsylvania 8-pointer taken last week was Alexis Moore's first archery buck. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Moore)

East Report

Acorns Are Dropping; Deer Are on the Move

The focus of deer in New England right now can be summed up in one word: acorns. This past week has seen a large shake in the oaks, and the acorns have dropped heavily. This has shifted deer movement across the upper part of the region from normal food sources to the timber candy. Rutting activity is low overall, but buck sign is beginning to be painted along the transitional and bedding areas.


In the higher elevations, there are several areas experiencing high rubbing activity, while lower elevations are experiencing very little. Scrapes are just beginning and are spotty along the field edges and rare inside the timber.

Although acorns are dropping from New York to the Virginias as well, and whitetail patterns are gradually changing, we aren't seeing as much rutting activity or sign as in the Northern states. There is much more buck sign like rubs and scrapes in New York and Pennsylvania than there is in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.

Where there are row crops like corn and soybeans still standing, you will find deer on general feeding patterns. In the more agricultural areas, young bucks can be seen pushing does around and curiously smelling them in hopes of finding one coming into estrous. We typically don't see this happening for at least a couple weeks yet, but the younger bucks are on the move and showing up more in daylight than mature bucks at this time.


If you haven't already, move your trail cameras to scrapes and take inventory. Scrapes are created by mature bucks, but visited by all deer. Right now, they'll be visited mostly at night, but this will provide you with an opportunity to see what is in your area. If possible, use black-flash cameras rather than infrared to remain as discreet as possible. If hunting fields, low areas will be your best bets for intercepting bucks entering in the evenings. Mornings can be productive, but your chances remain slightly higher in the evenings.

If you have little to no time to hunt, get out when you can. If you have a lot of time, don't overhunt your best stands, and keep human intrusion to a minimum. The last thing you want to do is push deer off your property before the going gets good. Be patient. Don't rush anything. There's plenty of time left. — Dustin Prievo


TAGGED OUT

A Pennsylvania Old-Timer Goes Down

Alexis Moore First Archery Buck
Alexis Moore of Brockway, Pa., killed this nice 8-pointer last week. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Moore)
  • Hunter: Alexis Moore
  • Date: Oct. 13, 2022
  • Location: Ridgeway, Pa.
  • Method: Crossbow
  • Stats: 8 points; 7.5 years old

Alexis Moore of Brockway, Pa., harvested this mature 8-point late last week. This was her first archery buck, and she was hunting alongside her hunting mentor, Paul Baker. The deer was shot on a property in Elk County that is managed by Baker, who is a Whitetail Properties Real Estate Agent/Land Specialist. Baker said he has a lot of history with this buck, as it was a dominant and aggressive buck in the area for years.

Moore and Baker chose to hunt the buck in the evening and said it was a very active evening in which they saw more than 20 does, 6 bucks and a flock of turkeys.

The hunt culminated with a 30-yard on this ancient buck, estimated to be at least 7.5 years old, in the last few minutes of legal shooting light.

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Midwest Report

Find Food, Search for Scrapes, Rattle for Pre-Rut Bucks

Buckle your safety belts and keep your bow in hand. The time of year deer hunters dream about is upon us. The Harvest Moon has come and gone, thus welcoming another fall. With the colorful display of red, orange and yellow foliage, and temperatures steadily dropping across the Midwest, it's time for the action to happen. The rut is about to roar.

The peak breeding time of the whitetail rut lasts about three weeks; however, we're not quite there yet. This is the pre-rut. Right now, bucks are busy establishing dominance and preparing scrapes.

A lot of this activity is taking place after dark. Many hunters refer to this period as the "October lull." Don't let that keep you out of the woods, though. Plenty of big bucks go down in mid- to late-October.

Food is the key to arrowing a mature buck right now. If you can figure out where a buck is feeding and bedding, you have a chance of tagging him. Across much of the Midwest, this year's acorn crop is excellent. Find oak trees with plentiful acorns around them, and you may have yourself a honey hole.

The rut progresses from north to south throughout the Midwest. Hunters in North Dakota will be into prime rut action before those in, say, southeast Kentucky. For the next seven weeks, we'll follow along and check in throughout the region as this progression unfolds.

Up north, Minnesota outdoor writer Scott Mackenthun says the Northwoods are full of rubs right now. This is proof that bucks are gearing up to get down. He says daylight pictures of his target buck are starting to increase.

"He shows up in the daylight about once a week right now," Mackenthun says. "I'm expecting those numbers to increase soon."

In Missouri, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) biologist John Burk says scrapes are popping up everywhere. Burk killed a dandy buck back in September, so he's been on doe patrol for the last few weeks. However, his job keeps him in the woods, and he says the bucks are active and making their preparations for peak breeding.

Southern Indiana deer hunter David Ray is reporting a lot more activity on his trail cameras. He says it is fun to watch the bucks physically change as their necks swell this time of year. Now that most of the surrounding corn and soybean crops are out, Ray says his food plots are getting hammered, but most of the mature bucks are still showing up after dark.

Now is a good time to try rattling. As mature bucks continue to establish dominance in their core area, they will not tolerate intruders, especially subordinate males. If you use rattling antlers to simulate a fight and the resident mature buck hears it, there is a good chance he will come to investigate and chase off any future competition. — Brandon Butler

TAGGED OUT

Bowhunter Bags a Missouri Monster

Tyler Rodes Missouri Buck
Tyler Rodes' Missouri buck, killed on Oct. 14, scored 171 6/8 and is his largest bow buck to date. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Rodes)
  • Hunter: Tyler Rodes
  • Date: Oct. 14, 2022
  • Location: Caldwell County, Mo.
  • Method: Compound Bow
  • Stats: 171 6/8 inches (rough score)

Tyler Rodes, a forester with the National Wild Turkey Federation, killed his largest bow buck to date on Friday, Oct. 14 in Caldwell County, Mo. The brute roughscored 171 6/8 inches. He fell to a well-placed arrow from a compound bow.

Rodes was hunting on private property he was given permission to hunt just last year. This buck was one of the first to show up on camera in the summer of 2021. He went hard-horned on Aug. 26 last year, which Rodes thought was interestingly early. Then he pretty much disappeared until the 2021 firearms season, when Rodes gave him a pass. He was pleased to know the pass paid off when he found his sheds last winter.

This year was different. The buck had a home range of about 40 acres, which he stuck to pretty tightly, and Rodes had him on camera regularly. Last Thursday evening and Friday morning, the buck showed himself during daylight, so Rodes slipped in Friday evening, hung a stand and climbed in.

"As soon as I settled in, I notice a big, fresh scrape on the edge of the field in front of me," Rodes said. "As luck would have it, he came out and walked straight across the field to that scrape. He worked it for 10 minutes, then turned to walk toward [me]. When he was broadside, I made a good shot."

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South Report

A Slow Start, but with Promise

In Texas, HuntStand's Will Cooper has been monitoring the deer activity and reports that it has been sporadic.

"October in Texas is the time of year when the weather can't make up its mind on whether it wants to be summer or fall," he says. "Conditions this past week for deer hunting were tough as we dealt with a full moon, 50-degree temperatures at night and near 100-degree temperatures during the day. The deer were moving mostly at night and staying put under shade trees or in bedding areas throughout the day."

Cooper says the acorn crop is abundant in some parts of the state. This means deer don't need to travel far to find food, and feeders aren't receiving a lot of attention.

Recent heavy rain has amped the available browse, too, further spreading deer out.

"Looking forward, we have a great cold front coming in with some rain and 40-degree temperatures that should make these deer begin to slip into their fall patterns," says Cooper. "Afternoon sits in the blind will be more enjoyable."

"All Things Hunting" podcast host Kyle Barefield has been in Oklahoma. He says bucks are largely still in bachelor groups.

That said, some older bucks have felt the effects of hunter pressure and are becoming more reclusive. Still, they remain on strong bed-to-feed patterns, but rarely leave their core areas. He's seeing rubs, but no scrapes yet.

Realtree United Country's Slade Priest is in Mississippi, where deer are still following strong feeding patterns.

"Scrapes and rubs just started, but there's good movement on cooler days," he says. "It's all about hunting smart right now."

Current regional rut activity is confined mostly to Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina. According to rut research provided by South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources, most of the coastal counties are starting to see rut activity, as are some of Georgia's coastal counties.

In Louisiana, according to historical rut data, parts of Allen, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, St. Mary, Vermillion and other parishes could be seeing some rut activity, too. It's just a matter of time.

And in Florida, for those in the southern third of the peninsula, the rut occurred anywhere from late July to late September. Now, except for a large area surrounding Winter Haven, much of the northern two-thirds of the state is seeing rut activity, too. — Josh Honeycutt

TAGGED OUT

Oklahoma Trophy After Green Light to Hunt

Paul Sears Oklahoma Buck
Paul Sears tagged this monster Oklahoma buck earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Paul Sears)
  • Hunter: Paul Sears
  • Date: Oct. 1, 2022
  • Location: Kay, Okla.
  • Method: Compound Bow
  • Stats: 174 5/8 inches (gross green score)

Paul Sears first gained permission to access an Oklahoma property for coyote and varmint hunting. After three years and 20-plus coyotes in the bag, he finally received the green light to hunt whitetails, and this season he tagged a monster 5 1/2-year-old, 174 5/8-inch buck there. He first learned of the deer in 2021 and continued keeping tabs on it this year.

After running off trespassers who were fishing ponds they weren't supposed to, he settled into his hunting spot located next to the ponds, which were in a cattle field full of native grasses. The open area bordered a large block of timber, and he expected the deer to enter the field and pass through within range.

The hunt started with several bucks walking through, ranging from in age from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years old. Then, Sears spotted the big deer on the edge of the timber. After carefully assessing the situation, the buck jumped the fence and walked toward Sears.

Eventually, the buck walked to within 15 yards. Sears drew back, settled the pin and took the broadside shot. Hitting the buck in the spine, it dropped in its tracks; Sears followed up with a second shot to the vitals.

"I am still on cloud nine with this buck," Sears said. "I'm truly blessed as an outdoorsman and hunter to be able to harvest a deer of this caliber. The hunt, even though it involved several obstacles, with other people on the property and coyotes interfering, was as textbook as it could have been.

"It is more than just something to do," he continued. "This is a way of life. Hunting in general is something that I think about every day. And knowing that I can pass this way of life on to my kids and family means the world to me."

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