Early Season Tactics Still Working in the Northwest


Early Season Tactics Still Working in the Northwest

Posted 2022-10-17T11:54:00Z  by  Jackie Holbrook

Hot weather is keeping most mule deer bucks in the high country; whitetail bucks are on the move

Early Season Tactics Still Working in the Northwest - image_by_svetlana_foote-nw

Deer hunting is heating up across the Northwest, but the rut remains cool. The relentless warm weather isn't making things easy for hunters in the field during the early season. Parts of Oregon and Washington are breaking heat records and experiencing very little moisture. This has created some uncomfortable hunting conditions, as well as increased wildfire danger. For weeks, hunters have endured smoky skies and poor air quality.

With no significant snowstorms in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming, mule deer hunters report that most muleys remain high in the mountains. Idaho's general season opened across many units on Oct. 10. Hunters who had success reported they were only rewarded after traveling several mountain miles and spending hours behind the glass. These mountain muleys are tough to spot right now especially as they're spending most of the hot days bedded in thick brush.

The exception seems to be hunters who have access to agricultural fields like winter wheat. In Wyoming, rifle hunters are punching tags while staking out irrigated or dryland crop fields. Muleys are frequently herded up in these areas, especially in drought-stricken areas. As for the mountain muleys that remain up high, hunters can expect them to begin to make their way down as the seeking phase begins later this month or if snowstorms drive them down sooner.

Whitetails are sticking to their pre-rut routines for the most part, with the occasional buck showing some interest in does. Hunters should focus on tracking movements between bedding and feeding areas. There has been an increase in daylight activity. For hunters who believe in the moon phase correlation with deer activity, they might attribute this increased daylight activity to the full moon on Oct. 9, 2022. For bucks, it could also be that they're beginning to enter the seeking phase.

I spent the final weekend of Montana's archery season taking my best shot at filling my 2022 deer tag with a whitetail buck. With the rifle opener around the corner, I had one last chance to target a whitetail before hunting pressure ramps up during the general season. On my final archery hunt before the season closed, I sat the edge of an agricultural field. I saw a lot of daylight activity. Does and spikes were out feeding in the field during the afternoon.

With over an hour of shooting light left, I saw a mature buck move into the field hot on the heels of a doe. The other bucks I spotted didn't show any interest in does. They were on the move from their bedding zone to the field and waited until just before dark to make an appearance. Unfortunately, nothing but does walked through my shooting lane, so I'll be headed into Montana's rifle season with a deer tag in my pocket.

The forecast across many parts of the Northwest calls for temperatures to cool down this week. As we turn the corner in October, hunters should expect more buck activity as they begin to enter the seeking phase, which could further increase daylight activity. With temps dropping and the rut heating up, the best days are ahead.

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  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding