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Smaller Bucks are Feeling Frisky in the Northwest

White-Tailed Deer


Smaller Bucks are Feeling Frisky in the Northwest

Posted 2023-10-23  by  Jackie Holbrook

It won't be long before it's all systems go throughout the region

For much of the fall, temperatures across the Northwest have felt more aligned with summer than winter. While there’s a definite crispness to the air many mornings, daytime temperatures remain well above freezing. This late fall has made for comfortable hunting conditions. Maybe too comfortable. Many hunters were on edge during archery seasons, understanding that failing to recover an animal quickly would mean losing meat to the heat.

Parts of Wyoming experienced the first major snowfall in the days leading up to rifle season openers. It created tough enough conditions to keep some hunters out of the field, but not writer Liz Lynch. Opening week Lynch glassed up several mule deer bucks and saw minimal rut behavior.

“We observed two smaller bucks [like a 2x2 and a 3x3] fighting each other intensely for about two minutes,” Lynch reported. “Not the usual light clacking of tines but getting after it, like territorial behavior.”

A few days later, Lynch says she saw a smaller buck act like he was testing a doe. “Not a full flehmen response but sort of badgering her. And when she got tired of it and walked away, he sort of did a bluff charge at her,” she said.

Lynch didn’t need bucks to make a mistake in the rut to fill her tag. When a 350-yard shot on a mature buck presented itself, she successfully sealed the deal.

Wyoming resident and friend Rich Pribyl celebrated the opening week of rifle season and his wedding anniversary in the field by tagging a mature mule deer buck. His wife Laura was happily along for the adventure. They reported that mule deer were not quite ready to rut but it may be on the mind.

“My buck was with a half dozen does and definitely thinking about the rut,” he said. “All the other deer I saw were still separated does/fawns and little bucks. Overall, I’d say no real rut activity.”

In Washington, many rifle seasons also opened this past week for whitetails, blacktails and mule deer. Hunters in the whitetail woods reported seeing an increasing number of scrapes and rubs. When hunters saw rut activity it was primarily in younger bucks. Hunters saw young bucks chasing does and fighting each other. More mature bucks, especially whitetails, aren’t exhibiting any signs of rutting and many are still only showing up on trail cams in the dark.

The warm fall is about to change in many parts of the Northwest. Snow is expected this week. With colder, stormy weather on the way and more rifle seasons set to open, hunters will likely see a shift in deer movement and perhaps rut behavior as the calendar moves closer to November.


  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding

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