November 17, 2022
There's no more waiting for deer hunters. The peak of the whitetail rut is happening right now in many places. And where it's not at peak, it's only a matter of time. Cooler temperatures have ratcheted up buck activity in every region of the deer woods, and this weekend may be your best time for an all-day sit.
This is Week 5 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, back-to-back cold snaps have bucks on their feet and more active during the day. Prievo suggests that if you can't do an all-day sit, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. could be worthwhile.
- In the Midwest, "the peak of the rut is upon us," reports Butler as colder weather has flipped the switch. "The bucks have lost their minds," Butler writes.
- In the South, "the rut is in full swing" in many states, especially with the change in the weather. Honeycutt reports southern hunting should be at or near prime time.
Daytime Activity on the Rise; Hunt Open Scrapes and Known Breeding Areas
Cooler temperatures came in toward the end of last week in the northern part of the region and had deer back on their feet a little more than they had been. Bucks seemed to have been locked down quite a bit, but hunters reported seeing a great deal of midday activity. Lots of mature bucks were seen prowling around bedding areas between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Our sources who are hunting timber stands and big woods stated that the top third of ridges and mountains were holding deer near thick cover, and bucks were in and out all throughout daylight hours. For those in the valleys and agricultural areas, thick hedgerows, swale, swamps and pockets of brushy, woody browse seemed to be holding most of the deer. All hunters reported heavy activity near water sources such as streams and creeks. These low-lying areas were producing most in the mornings through early afternoon, we're told.
In the Mid-Atlantic region, things were slow for some hunters, while others reported a lot of rutting activity. Where numbers and ratios are in line with a property's carrying capacity, bucks were acting aggressive, fighting and pushing does around quite a bit. Most of the activity had been occurring in the evening, but as the cooler temperatures came in, many hunters began getting trail-cam pics of midday walkers. Does were still focused on food and entering fields via low areas. Mature bucks were entering mostly at last light.
Hunters using decoys did not have much success, except for one who witnessed an aggressive, mature buck hit his decoy head-on only to run off without a shot opportunity. Grunting has been pulling in curious bucks the past week, while rattling proved ineffective for most. The warm weather may have suppressed a lot of the activity, but back-to-back cold snaps should provide for some entertaining hunts this weekend and into next week.
Bucks are still tending scrapes, if seldomly. If you find a fresh scrape, it may be worth hunting it. Otherwise, find doe bedding areas and spots near water and thick cover. If you know of breeding areas on your property, now is a great time to sneak in downwind and set up close to them. Thick, low-lying areas, hedgerows, swamps and creek bottoms all provide great locations for breeding holes and can bring a daytime buck into range if you set up under the right conditions. Focus on bedding this week rather than food, and extend your sits through the entire day if you can. If not, at least log some stand time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when bucks are up and cruising. — Dustin Prievo
Persistence Pays off in Pennsylvania
- Hunter: Jessica Edmonds
- Date: Nov. 12, 2022
- Location: Schuylkill County, Pa.
- Method: Crossbow
- Stats: 128 inches; 186 pounds
For two solid weeks, Jessica Edmonds had a laser focus on this buck and hunted it every day, even though almost all her trail-cam photos of it were taken at night. On the afternoon of Nov. 12, Edmonds heard a lot of ATV activity on a neighboring property and feared it was going to ruin her hunt. Then, at about 4 p.m., a doe emerged to feed in the food plot over which she was hunting. Before long, a second doe arrived on the scene.
Both does seemed anxious, however, and with the wind and ATV noises, Jessica feared her hunt was going to be a bust. The does then turned their attention to the surrounding timber, and Edmonds got her first glance at the buck she had been after. The buck started feeding in the same food plot and making his way toward Edmonds, but turned and went around her through some patches of thicker cover that didn't allow for a shot. Once he made it through the thick stuff, Edmonds grunted at him. The buck immediately approached her stand and stopped at 40 yards, offering a clean, broadside shot.
Shaking uncontrollably after letting her arrow fly, Edmonds managed to tap out a text message to her husband, who was hunting with their oldest daughter at the time and has taught Jessica about deer hunting for the past decade. Before long, they arrived and joined Jessica in tracking the buck. They found it within 100 yards of where it was shot. — Dustin Prievo
Rut Crash Course: How to Rattle in Big Whitetails (Video)
- Host Mark Kayser shares why rattling in early November gets bucks to come running.
Peak Rut is Here; Sit All Day if Possible
The bucks have lost their minds. Drive any back road in the Midwest right now, and there's a good chance you'll see a buck out in a field running with its tongue hanging out or standing still and heaving as it tries to catch its breath. The peak of the rut is upon us.
Missouri's firearms season opened on Nov. 12, and the weather was perfect. After record highs the week before, temperatures plummeted into the 20s. The switch flipped and bucks went nuts on the same weekend the orange army rolled out. The resulting harvest was so impressive that K.P. Processing in Harrisburg was turning away deer on Monday because it had no storage space left. They took in 250 deer on Sunday alone.
I lucked into a mature 8-pointer on my new farm in Howard County, Mo. A loud grunt gave the buck away before I could see him in the neighbor's picked bean field. He was running a scent line with his nose to the ground and slobber hanging from his lips. He was headed away from me, but some aggressive grunting and bleating, followed by clashing an old rattle bag a few times, turned him around and brought the buck charging over the property line. It was a chip shot, and my trusty .270 didn't let me down.
Out west in Kansas, accomplished big-buck hunter Heath Hazen says the rut is in full swing on the prairie. Bucks are chasing day and night. Kansas is where whitetail dreams come true, and right now is the most likely time to cross paths with a giant. Sitting where you can see a long way over wide-open spaces offers a great chance of spotting a buck on the move during daylight.
David Ray checked in again from southern Indiana where he and his 83-year-old father killed bucks last week. He says bucks are cruising all day in the timber. Ray, who usually sits all day, says you're just as likely to have a buck come by at lunchtime as you are at dawn and dusk right now. The Rays own 400 acres of forest in Jackson County that they intensely manage for wildlife. (David and his wife, Mary, just won the 2022 Charles Deam Forest Stewardship Award.) Their efforts continue to pay off during deer season.
"My father shot a 4 1/2-year-old 9-pointer that weighed 210 pounds," Ray says. "We've worked so hard on this farm over the last 30 years. To see him still enjoying it and shooting bucks each fall is the best. He’s my inspiration." — Brandon Butler
Read Last Week's Regional Rut Update
Young Hunter Bags Missouri Stud
- Hunter: Lauren Plunkett
- Date: Nov. 12, 2022
- Location: Fayette, Mo.
- Method: Rifle
- Stats: 10 points
Much has changed about hunting in my 32 seasons. Some good, some bad. But in my opinion, the most positive and important change over the past three decades has been the substantial increase of female hunters, who now represent the fastest-growing segment of our hunting population.
Lauren Plunkett started the bass-fishing team at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Mo., and was the only female member of Drury University's perennial powerhouse bass-fishing team. Her regular haul of impressive lunkers earned her the nickname, "Big Fish." Twice, she won the Missouri Outdoor Communicator's Buck Rogers Memorial Scholarship. Now she works in the outdoor industry as the Hunt/Fish Community Manager for Sawyer. Her list of impressive outdoor accolades has more recently come to include "big-buck hunter." After her success last weekend, she's now shot a good buck three seasons in a row.
"Hunting is very different than fishing," Plunkett says. "Fishing is competitive. Hunting is not. At least not for me. I relax when I'm in a deer stand. And I love opening weekend of firearms season because it's the one weekend of the year where you can see so many people who love the same thing you do. We're all wearing orange."
Plunkett's buck came out into an open bean field in pursuit of a hot doe. He was following her into a wooded draw when Plunkett shot him with a .280 Ackley rifle she built. The buck is a tall 10-pointer with a broken G4 on its left antler. She's going to do a European mount of the skull herself. — Brandon Butler
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Rut Activity Highly Dependent on Weather; Daylight Movement Increasing
The rut is in full swing in some parts of the South. Historical rut data provided by state wildlife agencies suggest several states should be in their prime right now, with bucks in hot pursuit of does. These locations include parts of central and western Tennessee, the eastern half of North Carolina, virtually all of South Carolina, most of Georgia, northern and western Arkansas, southwestern Louisiana, eastern Texas and the central part of Florida’s Panhandle and Peninsula regions. As mature bucks throw caution to the wind in these areas, hunters are beginning to reap the benefits.
Realtree's Tyler Jordan is in Georgia, where they are close to the peak rut now.
"There's a lot of chasing going on, and I think some bucks are already in the lockdown phase," he reports. "Bucks seem to be moving all day. On one of my cameras, I caught a big 6 1/2-year-old buck I've been hunting up and walking the edge of a food plot yesterday at 11:30 a.m."
While daylight movement by mature bucks is ramping up throughout the region, in some areas it's minimal. Travis Sumner with the South Carolina Wildlife Partnership is a serious whitetail hunter, and he's reporting diminished movement due to humid weather and warmer temperatures.
"Mature buck movement is still mainly at night according to my cameras," he says. "The cold front that just moved in is making it feel more like hunting weather. Chasing has slowed probably because some mature bucks are locked down with does.
"We're seeing smaller bucks still chasing," Sumner continues. "Acorns [mainly water oak] and food plots are ideal spots for locating does. More normal fall temps should have deer up and moving in the daylight."
In Oklahoma, bucks are ranging far and wide in search of hot does.
"Our trail cameras are showing that our bucks are ranging outside of their normal core areas now," says Kyle Barefield of All Things Hunting. "Getting the same bucks on cameras that are multiple miles apart. Also, getting new deer on camera that we haven't seen yet." — Josh Honeycutt
Double-Drop-Tine Tennessee Giant
- Hunter: Alan Hunt
- Date: Nov. 12, 2022
- Location: Hickman County, Tenn.
- Method: Muzzleloader
- Stats: 180+ inches
Last Saturday, Alan Hunt encountered a buck in-person for the first time since previously only seeing him on a single trail-cam image … in 2018.
"I had hunted in a different spot that morning, and it was miserable cold and raining," he says. "The wind shifted, so l left. That afternoon, the rain cleared out and a cold front pushed in. The barometric pressure was up and the wind was perfect for the area I wanted to hunt. It was a northwest wind pushing my scent out of the hollow and into the open sage field."
His spot was deep in a hollow flanked by steep hardwood ridges on each side. No one had been there since January. It's a spot that holds good deer, but it's very difficult to hunt due to minimal shooting lanes.
It took Hunt about 20 minutes to walk to his hunting spot. Due to the good conditions, he fully expected to see lots of movement. He wasn't disappointed. Soon after he settled in, four does walked in. Then, two more. Then, at about 3:20 p.m., a double-drop-tine buck walked right down the same trail as the does had earlier in the afternoon.
Hunt aimed, settled the crosshairs and pulled the trigger. The 45-yard, quartering-away shot struck true. The buck ran 20 yards, tipped over and tumbled down the ridge into the ditch in front of him.
"I wasn’t aware of the caliber of deer I had shot until I recovered him from the ditch," Hunt says. "My adrenaline was so high that I actually drug that deer out of the hollow and loaded him into my truck by myself before he was field-dressed. I was so excited that I actually left my muzzleloader and my backpack in the field and had to go back and get it later that evening." Hunt says the buck scores in the 180s. A true giant anywhere, but even more so for the Volunteer State. — Josh Honeycutt