Whitetail and mule deer movement seems to be at its peak all across the Northwest, but unfortunately for many hunters they’re sitting on the sidelines as seasons are closing
Hunters in the timber, mountains and rolling hills of the Northwest are seeing a lot of sign that the rut is in full swing. Bucks are chasing, seeking, fighting, breeding, and making scrapes. There’s another sign the rut is happening, and unfortunately, it’s one you can spot from the truck. Mid-November the number of dead deer on the side of the road increases dramatically, especially the number of big bucks. The casual car passenger may not notice, but hunters sure do.
My 400-plus mile hunting road trip across Montana this week confirmed that that you won’t find a better week to see bucks chasing and seeking. While playing Frogger with bucks isn’t fun, watching the ones that stayed a safe distance from roads provided plenty of exciting rut behavior. From daylight to dark, we spotted whitetails and mule deer chasing does on public and private land.
Montana’s mule deer started seeking and chasing toward the end of the first week of November. As mid-November turns toward Thanksgiving week, mule deer bucks are still moving frequently throughout the day. However, hunters are reporting that some of the more mature bucks have disappeared from the landscape. Whether this due to hunters filling tags or bucks moving into lockdown mode is unknown.
Montana’s whitetails have been exhibiting chasing and seeking behavior for at least 10 days, but this past week they finally started to move at all hours of the day. I spent the week not too far from Montana, just over the border in South Dakota. I watched bucks cruise by and check out scrapes on their way to find does. Every buck we spotted was moving. While I only noticed minimal fighting behavior, I did see a buck that was already missing an antler. Rutting behavior made it easy to stay out all day glassing, as you knew a buck could move into your hunt area at any time.
Montana’s general deer tag holders have until the Sunday following Thanksgiving to fill the freezer. Unfortunately for many other Northwest hunters, many seasons have already closed, especially for antlered deer. Most general seasons are closed in Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon for whitetail and mule deer bucks. There are scattered units with later seasons and some opportunities for late season archery and muzzleloader. This is an excellent week to be out hunting in the Northwest as temperatures are mild and bucks are moving with little care for their surroundings. With a cold snap on the horizon and season closures looming, get out there now. Just be sure to drive extra cautious on your way to the woods, you don’t want to tag one with the truck.
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