November 09, 2022
If you're ready for an all-day sit to bag a mature buck, your opportunity is coming as the annual whitetail rut rounds into form in many places. A cooldown after recent warm weather should increase activity by the weekend, according to our reporting. It's time to grab your long johns and go.
This is Week 4 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, the rut is rounding into form, and with a cold snap expected this week, more bucks will be on the move during daylight hours. "This week should produce for those who are persistent," writes Prievo.
- In the Midwest, hunters also will get a weather break, with a major cold front expected by the weekend. Saturday is "a top choice for an all-day sit," according to Butler.
- In the South, the rut is rocking in some places but virtually non-existent in others. Activity is firing up in Georgia and the Carolinas, for examples, but there's not much happening in Alabama and Mississippi, Honeycutt says.
Heat Dominated, But Cooler Weather on the Way; Sit All Day if You Can
Warm temperatures may have suppressed overall activity in the Northeast this week, but there is no doubt the rut is progressing. Many hunters are reporting sightings of more mature bucks, most of which are following does. Does are still continually feeding in their somewhat normal patterns, and the bucks are working their way around this, trying to sneak their first look at a hot doe.
Scrape activity was still fairly high last week but started to taper off toward the end of the week, with scrapes being visited and cleaned only after the recent rain. Hunters are also reporting a slight increase in rubbing activity, which may come as no surprise since bucks are gearing up to fight for the ladies. This was a great time to catch a big buck moving about the landscape a little more than normal, as many hunters across the region can attest.
Last week was unusually warm in the Mid-Atlantic region, too, with winds mostly coming from the south and bringing difficult hunting conditions for most of our sources. Several reported seeing little to no movement during morning hunts; what little movement they saw in the evening was just before dark.
Young bucks were still actively pushing does around this past week, but hunters are reporting more mature bucks are now starting to follow suit. Most of the field edges were filled with does feeding and younger bucks (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 year olds) pestering them nonstop. Mature bucks were reportedly seen early in the morning and just before dark in and around major food sources, but overall sightings and trail-camera images were muted. We suspect the bucks are changing their patterns slightly while still touching up scrapes and sizing up other bucks. They're actively watching from afar, ready to pounce as soon as they catch wind of a hot doe.
This week will finally see a break in the weather, and a cold snap will have more deer on their feet. For those who can sit all day, now is the time to do so as does will begin to bed and bucks will work their way through the bedding areas trying to find a hot doe. Expect a lot of buck movement between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon on most days and even as early at 1 p.m. in the afternoons. Grunting and rattling can work in areas of good deer ratios and healthy deer herds, so use calls to your advantage. If the weather should warm up again, I would put my focus on low-lying water sources and north-facing slopes, and tuck up tight to the downwind side of the bedding areas. This week should produce for those who are persistent. — Dustin Prievo
New York Nightstalker Makes Daytime Appearance
- Hunter: RJ Booth
- Date: Nov. 7, 2022
- Location: Monroe County, N.Y.
- Method: Crossbow
- Stats: 9 points, plus stickers; 151” (rough score)
On the morning of Nov. 7, RJ Booth finally laid eyes on a buck he had previously only seen in nighttime trail-cam photos during the early part of the season. At 7:05 a.m., he watched the buck enter one of his food plots about 90 yards away from his stand and start chasing a doe. The buck then moved into a second food plot where a cellular trail camera sent him a close-up image of the buck.
A short while later, the doe he was with led the buck down a trail directly to RJ, who placed an arrow behind the shoulder on a hard quartering-away shot. The buck ran off into a thick patch of brush. RJ watched him stand in one place for a few minutes and believed he saw him tip over. Not being completely sure, however, RJ left the woods and returned several hours later with his kids to find the buck lying right where he last saw him.
He took a moment to say a prayer and count his blessings, with the warm feeling that his late grandpa was there to share the moment with him as well. — Dustin Prievo
Rut Crash Course: Common Sense About Scent During Rut (Video)
- Scent is important in deer hunting because whitetails live by their noses.
Daylight Sightings of Rut Activity Increase; Coming Cold Snap Should Help
It's going down—just mostly after dark. Bucks are seeking does and chasing when the moment is right. But because of the heatwave that's been hammering the Midwest, most of the action has been taking place after dark. The weather is about to change, as a major cold front is pushing into the Midwest this weekend. Break out your long johns and Thermos. Given the chance, you should be in the woods all day.
Bowhunting legend M.R. James, who founded Bowhunter Magazine over 50 years ago, lives on a beautiful, wooded farm in southern Indiana where he has created a whitetail deer sanctuary. Even though he’s beyond his 80th birthday, James has an infectious exuberance for whitetails that drives him into the woods nearly every day. It's here where he tends to a herd of wild whitetails that have come to accept his presence. On Nov. 7, he saw at least half a dozen different bucks "in full-rut mode," chasing after does or cruising the woods looking for love.
"[I] came upon a young 8-pointer while easing down an old logging trail near our farm's sanctuary area," James says. "He was dogging several does and fawns that had hurried past me at not quite 20 yards. Just after he appeared, he paused to take out his frustration by rubbing a hapless sapling while I snapped photos. Talk about a rush. It's likely the best ringside seat I've ever had to witness a buck raking a tree."
Up in Iowa, North Carolina transplant Shawn Jenkins says he just can't get enough of this time of year in Iowa.
"I mean, I'll be driving down a dirt road and see a buck running across a field and think that is the biggest buck I've ever seen," he says. "Then an hour later, I'll see a bigger one. The rut in Iowa is every deer hunter's dream, and right now it is kicking off."
As far as the rut conditions are concerned in central Iowa, Jenkins says his cameras are providing proof the rut is on, but most of the action is still happening after dark. And when it's 75 degrees out in the afternoon, who can blame these bucks for waiting until it cools down a bit before turning on the jets?
This weekend, as firearms seasons open in several Midwestern states, we should see a lot of deer hitting the ground. Missouri is supposed to go from around a high of 80 on Thursday to a high of 40 on Saturday with a chance of snow. If you ever plan to go at it all day this season, I'd say this Saturday is a top choice to do so. — Brandon Butler
Read Last Week's Regional Rut Update
Bowhunter Rattles in Michigan Monster
- Hunter: Thomas Garries
- Date: Nov. 3, 2022
- Location: Cassopolis, Mich.
- Method: Compound Bow
- Stats: 10 points; 147 4/8” (gross score)
Like most hardworking Midwesterners, Thomas Garries does not have nearly enough time off in the fall. He'd be in the woods every day if could, but as it is, whenever he's able to get off work, he hunts.
"I was off all day on Thursday, November 3, so I knew I had to make the most of it," Garries says. "The weather wasn't going too good, with temps in the 70s and a bad wind direction for my stand, but there was no choice. I was going hunting."
He leases land west of Cassopolis, Mich., in Cass County. His spot is between an alfalfa field and a standing cornfield. Bucks have been doing some chasing, but not a ton with the warm weather. He saw a nice 8-pointer in the morning that he'd hoped would show back up in the evening.
At 6:30, with about a half hour left of light, Garries hadn't seen any deer, so he decided he should try grunting. Unfortunately, he quickly realized he'd forgotten his call in the truck. Instead, all he had was a rattling pack, so he gave it a shot.
"Five minutes later," he says, "I see a buck working his way towards a scrape and licking branch 40 yards away. I drew back and let it fly. The shot was perfect, and he went down within 50 yards."
The buck is a main-frame 10 with a kicker, and the bruiser weighed 200 pounds dressed. The green score is 147 4/8 inches. — Brandon Butler
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Wide Range of Rut Activity Across Region; Carolinas, Georgia Lead the Charge
November is here, and for the northern half of the country, the heart of the rut is close at hand. In the South—as is often the case with the southern rut—it's rocking in some spots and not at all in others. Here's the latest insider information from those in the know throughout the region.
In South Carolina, Montana Decoy's C.J. Davis reports the rut is just getting started. "I'm seeing a lot of does still with [fawns] and some small bucks out looking," he says. "Not much chasing yet. It’s recently turned hot and really rainy, so that probably isn't helping."
Chris Seaton with Rugged Cross Blinds says the weather has been very hot in Florida. The elevated, above-average temperatures have suppressed daylight deer movement. He reports there is very little daytime chasing occurring in the northern zones. However, a small area around the central part of the Peninsula, and a few counties in the eastern part of the Panhandle, are experiencing some bucks checking does.
Duck Commander co-host and Realtree pro staffer Justin Martin is our inside guy in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, and he reports daylight deer movement has been minimized due to warm, drought conditions.
"My SpyPoint [cameras] are showing movement at an absolute minimum during the day," he says. "Acorns dropping aren't helping either. We've got a great crop of 'em this year."
The bulk of Louisiana's southwestern parishes, and some northwestern ones, are experiencing the rut.
Down in South Texas, Josh Kinser with Big & J reports continued early season action. "We're seeing a few rubs and scrapes, but the rut is still weeks away down here," he says.
That said, there has been plenty of chasing in central Texas, he says. "Bucks are very responsive to rattling right now," Kinser reports.
A review of historical rut data provided by state wildlife agencies reveals the rut should be hitting its stride in several places. In North Carolina, while the coastal counties are potentially past their peak, the rest of the eastern third of the state should be set to see exponential increases in chasing and tending. The same is true for 95 percent of South Carolina.
In Georgia, southeastern counties are really starting to fire up. The same is true for many of the central counties. Overall, from Floyd to Hart counties in the North, and Stewart down to Lowndes, and virtually everywhere in-between, expect potential chasing and breeding. Much of the western portion of Tennessee is beginning to ramp up, seeing cruising and chasing during daylight hours, and many central counties will soon see the same.
Over in Arkansas, except for Mississippi river counties and a layer or two of counties west of those, the rest of the state is experiencing significant rubbing and scraping, and the heart of the rut is about a week or so out.
There is little to no rut action in Alabama or Mississippi. — Josh Honeycutt
Crazy Carolina Luck
- Hunter: Michael Ball
- Date: Nov. 5, 2022
- Location: Ashe County, N.C.
- Method: Muzzleloader
- Stats: 2 bucks, including a 10-point piebald
Michael Ball has been hunting his Ashe County family farm for 22 years, but never in a million years could he have expected what occurred on Nov. 5.
The day brought warm, windy conditions. Ball arrived at the farm soon after daylight and spotted a buck chasing a doe in a river bottom. He moved quietly to his box blind and settled in. Later in the day, he spotted a young, small 3-point. Around 5:45 p.m., an 8-point walked into range. Ball shot that buck, waited about 30 minutes, then started the walk back to his side-by-side to load it up.
"I decided to leave my muzzleloader in the box stand because I had no intentions of shooting another deer," says Ball. "As I was walking up a logging road, I noticed something white that caught my attention. At first, I thought it was a white barrel at the bottom of this hollow he was in. I pulled out my phone, zoomed in as far as I could and couldn't believe my eyes. I dropped down and slipped back to my blind to grab my gun."
When Ball returned, the piebald deer was still in the same spot making a scrape. Ball leaned up against a tree, settled in and took the 75-yard shot. The buck ran about 30 yards and crashed.
To give the deer some time, he went and recovered the 8-point before returning to the piebald 10-point.
"I could not believe my eyes. I threw my arms up in the air and started screaming like I had won the lottery. Of course, I had to call all my friends," Ball says. "While FaceTiming one of my hunting buddies, he told me to look at the screen. My jaw dropped. Right there on the screen was a piebald he had just shot! We had both shot piebald bucks on the same night!" — Josh Honeycutt