What deer activity are you seeing?
As the month of November comes to a close, some areas of the Midwestern region are still experiencing solid rut action. Others have gone dry, though. While most breeding happened in conjunction with historical rut data (mid-November), there are a few pockets throughout the Midwest where a fair amount of breeding is still taking place. These hold-out areas are the best places to find the last of this year's primary rut activity, which should wrap up within the next few days. That said, the post-rut can be one of the best times for hunters willing to continue grinding.
I talked to several friends who have been hunting in Kansas over the past week. Each of their reports were very similar. Activity has picked back up with mature bucks breaking free of the does they were with last week. Bucks are cruising again in search of the remaining does to be bred. Chasing is occurring on a property-by-property basis. Large doe groups are becoming more common again with evenings producing the best overall deer activity. Most of that activity centers on cut milo fields and wheat.
The Cornhusker State is one of the remaining hot spots for rut activity in the region. Melvin Oldaker of Oldaker Outfitting located in the northwestern part of the state, reported cruising and chasing is still taking place, while most mature bucks are in a hard lock-down right now.
Last week, South Dakota was the hottest area in the region for rut activity. However, things are slowing down a bit. Mike Stroff of Savage Outdoors said the best action has passed, but bucks can still be found hanging with the final does to enter estrus.
I spoke with Clint Schwach of B3 Archery in west central Missouri. He reported seeing surprisingly good daylight movement with bucks and does still actively using scrapes. Schwach also said that bucks are still cruising and checking does to find those yet to be bred. Ridge lines — especially where acorns can still be found — have been the best food sources for morning hunts. The evening activity has been best around turnip food plots.
Mike Stroff of Savage Outdoors reported that Illinois is another hold out for hot rut action in the Midwest. He said the action seemingly won't end. Bucks are still seen cruising and chasing, but most older-age-class bucks are currently locked down with hot does.
I talked with my good friend Steve Gullickson in central Wisconsin who reported sporadic activity throughout the state. Gullickson said rutting action was fairly slow in the northern region. However, central and southern Wisconsin are still seeing some cruising and chasing. As with all of the Great Lakes region, Wisconsin experienced warmer weather recently, but a snowy cold front will settle in during the holiday weekend. Steve said he expects to see a significant shift in feeding patterns. High-calorie crops like corn and beans should get a lot of attention in the afternoons.
Clint McCoy, a deer biologist for the ODNR Division of Wildlife, said there's still some cruising and chasing happening in The Buckeye State. He's had new bucks starting to show up on camera over the past week, which is in line with data collected during some of his graduate student work. McCoy said mature bucks not only remain active past peak breeding but actually expand their range during the post rut in search of the last receptive does. As the late season approaches, McCoy said that Ohio hunters with access to food sources should expect above-average action due to the lack of planting during the wet spring. Standing and waste crops are limited, and food plots should start to play a big role. Mast crops are limited, too.
In my home state, we're at the tail end of a two-week firearm season. Despite the surge in hunting pressure, overall deer movement remains decent. Occasional sightings of chasing are being reported but are very limited. Trail camera info indicates many older-age-class bucks are returning to nocturnal and last-light movement. With colder temperatures on the way, standing beans and cut corn should produce good activity over the next week.
Overall, there's still some rut action throughout the Midwest. But this lingering activity isn't likely to last much longer. Focus on areas near food sources that see a lot of doe activity. If you encounter a buck that's locked down with a doe, don't hesitate to put on a stalk. Slip in closer and use a decoy.
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