October 27, 2022
Scrapes and rubs are becoming more common in whitetail country as deer hunters anticipate the annual rut. Rutting activity was still slow in most places during the past week, but there still were some great bucks taken recently (see stories below).
This is Week 2 of the Game & Fish Regional Rut Update, seven exclusive weekly rut reports from the field from whitetail contributors Dustin Prievo (East), Josh Honeycutt (South) and Brandon Butler (Midwest). Click here for last week's report. This week's report includes:
- In the East, there's been an increase in rutting activity, and more is expected in the coming week. Rubs and scrapes are becoming more frequent.
- In the South, most of the rutting activity has been seen in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida. Expect the rut to gradually move across the region.
- In the Midwest, due to last week's heat wave, with temps in the 80s, little daylight movement of mature bucks was reported, but there were some great bucks taken in Minnesota and Ohio.
Sign More Prevalent; Hunt Field Edges, Clearings at First and Last Light
Rutting activity is beginning to pick up in New England and northern New York. Bucks are beginning to create and visit scrapes overnight, but with very little daytime activity. Rubs are becoming more frequent as well. Young bucks are continually trying to bump feeding does and find the first ones to come into heat. Mature bucks seem to still be hanging back and resting up, only getting on their feet to feed or visit a scrape maybe once or twice a week.
From southern New York to the Virginias, row crops have been harvested or are in the midst of being harvested. This is forcing deer to move more through the evening to find food that was once plentiful. Deer activity is beginning to pick up in the mornings for this reason, as primary food sources have switched from standing crops to selective browse and acorns.
Field-edge scrapes are more prevalent now but still not at the level they will be. Expect for more scrapes to be created by mature bucks and then visited by all deer in the coming week. Mature bucks have been seen on trail cameras just before daybreak and shortly after sunset, not yet breaking daylight in most areas. However, some mature bucks have been seen slipping up and are being seen during the first and last 30 minutes of many sits. This will become more common in the weeks to come.
Scrapes are still the move for trail-camera inventory; don't be surprised this week if you find a buck that you haven't seen on your property before. Mature bucks are getting just as eager as the younger bucks, but the warmer weather will keep them from expanding their territories. If you have scrapes on your property lines, get a camera on them to see what your neighbor may be harboring, as bucks may move a little off their beaten path to see what is going on in the neighborhood.
This upcoming week, expect mature bucks to get on their feet earlier and stay later. Field edge scrapes, where they exist, will be key. Open patches of clear-cuts in timber stands and along ridge tops will be great places to sit in the evenings to try to catch a mature buck as he impatiently looks for a hot doe. — Dustin Prievo
Maryland Muzzleloader Giant
- Hunter: Wayne Stevens
- Date: Oct. 21, 2022
- Location: Frederick County, Md.
- Method: Muzzleloader
- Stats: 8 points, 218 pounds
Wayne Stevens of Maryland was joined by his brothers on their lease property in Frederick County, Md., during the early muzzleloading season for a hunt they will never forget. Wayne’s son had suggested he sit in his hang-on stand in a spot they call the "Lower Woods." As Wayne's brothers headed to the rear of the property, Wayne made his way into his son's stand for the evening hunt.
Wayne quickly felt the wind change and knew it wasn't right for this spot. Already committed, though, he figured he would still give it a try because his son had been seeing a lot of deer movement in that area in all different directions.
There was little movement at the outset of the hunt, with only a couple button bucks making their way under his stand. Then things became really quiet for a while. At about 5:45 p.m., Wayne heard a twig snap below him in the thicket. He began investigating the sound through his binocular and saw what appeared to be a nice rack moving through the brush.
His initial thought was the buck was probably a shooter, but he was hesitant because they had no trail-camera photos and no observations of this deer. He said there was no one in the hunting group that had history with this deer either. The mature buck slowly made his way up the dry creek bed in the timber until stepping out into a small clearing. This was when Wayne really got a grasp of the actual size of this beautiful whitetail.
The deer began to walk away and Wayne prayed for him to change directions. Just then, the buck turned back and started walking straight toward him. At this moment, the buck raised his head to check the wind and Wayne felt he was going to be busted. The buck then lowered his head and moved to the only opening Wayne had for a shot. After he squeezed the trigger and the smoke cleared, there lied this mature whitetail buck.
At 67 years old, and having been hunting since the age of 14, Wayne says he has never had the shakes like he experienced after shooting this buck. He immediately called his son and thanked him for the suggestion and opportunity to sit in his stand.
Wayne says the property they hunt is not known for big deer, but he surely feels blessed to have had such an encounter with a deer like this one. Wayne and his brothers joined together over the deer, shared some hugs and backslaps, took a few photos and proceeded to drag the deer up to the trucks.
The scales tipped at 218 pounds and hats were tipped to Wayne when this buck was dropped off at the butcher shop. Wayne says he’s blessed to have been able to harvest such a beautiful animal but more blessed to share his time in the woods with his family and friends. "I am a very lucky person, and this is what hunting is all about," he said. — Dustin Prievo
Rut Crash Course: Decoy Applications for Pre-Rut to Post-Rut (Video)
- Decoys add a new dimension to whitetail hunting. Mark Kayser discusses the pros and cons.
Heat Wave Slowdown; Target Escape Cover, Staging Areas with Acorns
A heat wave across the Midwest last week did nothing to help big-buck hunters notch tags. Numerous states saw temperatures top out over 80 degrees. During this weather spell, hunters observed very little daylight movement of mature bucks. With temperatures settling back down closer to normal this week, we should hopefully see more bucks on their feet and more rutting activity.
Out in South Dakota, Brian Bashore serves as the executive director of Second Century Habitat Fund, which educates landowners on the importance of grasslands and raises funds for habitat conservation in the state. He spends lots of time outdoors and reports that smaller bucks are starting to work scrapes during daylight. He hasn't seen many shooters on their feet, though. A good buddy of his did kill one with a crossbow while sitting over a scrape last week, but he thinks that was pretty lucky.
Bashore believes most natural buck movement is still nocturnal. His big tip for deer hunters right now is to hunt where bumped bucks may escape to after being unwillingly forced to move. Lots of lazy bucks are kicked up out of their beds by pheasant hunters in the morning and afternoon. Even more are pushed out of agriculture fields by combines.
"If you can hunt next to a cornfield while it's being harvested, you should take off work or do whatever you need to do to be in a stand over a route into adjacent cover," Bashore says. "It's been so dry farmers are not having any problem getting the crops out, so very soon all those fields will be harvested."
Up in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., home of the Whitetails Unlimited national headquarters, Communications Director Jeff Davis says things are slow.
"As it gets cooler, we should see more movement, but right now the report is it's pretty dead," he says. "I think we are still two to three weeks away up here [in Wisconsin]. A lot of my co-workers are leaving work around 3 [p.m.] to get a couple hours in, but I don't know of anyone who has connected yet."
He suggests continuing to focus on food, especially acorns back in the woods where bucks may stage before entering an open field after dark.
On the eastern edge of the region, the story is about the same. Few big buck encounters are being reported. Norman Miller, owner of Premier Outdoors in Mt. Hope, Ohio, says that bucks have been moving some but not excessively. This isn't preventing some folks from finding success, though.
"We've had three real nice ones come through the shop in the last week," Miller says. "The biggest was in the 180s, and another was in the 170s. Last Tuesday and Wednesday were real good before it warmed up. It’s supposed to cool down by the end of this week, so I expect the hunting will pick back up."— Brandon Butler
Read Last Week's Regional Rut Update
Minnesota Stud Falls to Prepared Bowhunter
- Hunter: Hayden Ashworth
- Date: Oct. 16, 2022
- Location: Oronoco, Minn.
- Method: Compound Bow
- Stats: 9 points; 158-inch gross score
Hayden Ashworth was in his treestand just 15 yards in the woods when this big 9-pointer gave him a shot. He had cut three shooting lanes to ensure any buck entering the woods from the picked cornfield in front of him would pass through an opening. When this brute entered one of those lanes at 35 yards, Hayden drilled him. His preparation had paid off.
After settling in for an evening sit at 3:30 p.m., Hayden saw numerous deer moving, but no good bucks. About a half-hour before sunset, he decided to rattle. Two bucks—a small 8-pointer and the big 9—answered by bursting from a small patch of woods on the backside of a pond. When they ran into the picked cornfield, they spooked some does. The big 9-pointer began pursuing one of them.
Hayden started grunting. The little 8 came right to him, but the big 9 was more interested in the doe. Once she made her intentions—or lack thereof—clear, the buck gave up and slowly made his way toward Hayden.
"If I kept grunting, he kept coming," Hayden says. "If I stopped grunting, he would turn and go back toward the doe. I must have grunted at him 15 times before he finally committed."
Hayden credits the first good cold snap for the action he experienced. He says the local scene went dead when temperatures peaked near 80 degrees last week. Thankfully, he was able to harvest his deer before the warm spell. He did say, however, that scrapes and rubs are abundant in his area, and young bucks are visibly sparring frequently. Bucks are definitely gearing up to bust loose. — Brandon Butler
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Mature Bucks are Largely Nocturnal; Try Calling to Spur Movement
As we head into Week 2 of the South Rut Update, it's important to keep in mind the high degree of variation throughout the region. There is no place in the country with a larger window of rutting dates. That said, most of the best action is still confined to the areas mentioned last week.
In Georgia, Realtree's Michael Pitts reports things have been slow.
"Most of the mature bucks have been nocturnal," he says. "There are lots of acorns on the ground, so the deer seem to be spending more time in the woods. The past week, scrapes have become more plentiful and are being worked daily."
Moving forward, he expects the deer movement to improve.
"We have had a cold front come in the past few days, and that has sparked a little bit more movement," says Pitts. "Yesterday, while I was hunting, I witnessed a couple of small bucks starting to push a few does around. I think in about a week we should see some of these mature bucks going into pre-rut mode. Time will tell."
The National Wild Turkey Federation's Travis Sumner might be a turkey guy, but he’s a diehard deer hunter, too. A resident of South Carolina, he reports some rutting activity is taking place, with a few mature bucks chasing and tending does. He recommends mixing in a bit of calling to pique a buck’s attention. Sumner specifically recommends grunting and estrus bleats.
Overall, most of the rutting action is taking place in a few select states. This includes the coastal counties of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, though rut activity has spread to much of South Carolina, as well as inland counties in southeastern Georgia. Furthermore, the southwestern corner of Louisiana and much of the northern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula are starting to see quite a bit of rutting activity.
As we move deeper into fall, we'll continue to see the rut gradually spread like a wave throughout the South. Those who hope to chase it should continue keeping tabs here for updates. — Josh Honeycutt
Arkansas Surprise Success
- Hunter: Tres Jackson
- Date: Oct. 10, 2022
- Location: Pope County, Ark.
- Method: Muzzleloader
- Stats: 145 ¾ inches
Tres Jackson tagged a great Arkansas buck earlier this month that he didn't even know existed until he laid eyes on it from his blind.
"I got permission to hunt on these 80 acres of land the past year," Jackson says. "With a dozen sits last year and not seeing any deer, I got discouraged and somewhat abandoned it. This year, I decided to hang a camera and put some feed out to take inventory of the deer in the area. To my surprise, I had a picture of a relatively good 10-point but had no idea this buck was in the area."
On Oct. 10, the weather presented cool, wet, windy conditions. Jackson decided to try his luck sitting on a hillside hidden by thick, brushy cover. Several does and fawns grazed through the area, as did a young 4-pointer.
Then, another one stepped out.
"I remember looking up and seeing a dark shadow moving," Jackson says. "I put my scope on it to see if it was a doe or buck, and all I saw was antlers."
The buck took another five steps, dropped down into a creek bed and disappeared completely. He reappeared a few moments later and continued toward Jackson. Once the deer breached 30 yards, Jackson settled his crosshair and squeezed off the shot. The buck ran out of sight.
Jackson decided to give the deer some time, but as he walked back to his truck, he noticed a white object just off the trail. It was his buck.
"Hard work pays off—never give up," Jackson says. "I love the feeling of being in the woods without all the daily stresses of life. Every deer hunt is different, too. I think the most important aspect of it is I get to be alone. Just me, my thoughts, and the big man upstairs. Getting to see or harvest a deer is a plus." — Josh Honeycutt
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