What deer activity are you seeing?
Things are even better than last week in the Northwest. The rut isn't near, but general deer movement is solid.
Washington, Oregon and Idaho
The Inland Northwest is already experiencing light snow flurries, with significant accumulations at higher elevations. These aren't enough to spark annual migrations from higher elevations but they have resulted in considerable all-day movement in many cases. Most daytime movement currently involves does and younger bucks — good news for those simply looking to put some organic protein in the freezer.
As is quite typical this time of year, mature bucks (after stripping velvet and abandoning bachelor groups) have moved to new places. Many bucks that were appearing on trail cameras regularly just a couple weeks ago have fallen completely off the radar during the past several weeks. Not to worry, as this isn't entirely out of the ordinary. Pre-rut activities such as rubbing and scraping should pick up, the bigger bucks will slowly reappear, and they'll eventually move back into daytime patterns.
Currently, small, aggression-displacement rubs and scrapes have begun to appear, but not in significant numbers, and nothing so serious that it warrants a lot of trail camera attention. That said, keep an eye on those scrapes that appear in traditional spots. All said, the Inland Northwest rut is a good month away, so be patient.
For die-hard whitetail hunters joining the Idaho festivities, plant yourself on a commanding vantage and put optics to work. Focus on obvious bedding cover. All Idaho non-resident elk and whitetail tags were sold this year, so the woods will be crowded. Expect undisturbed deer — if you can find them — to move early and late, as weather is warming slightly. Harder-hunted public lands could see rousted bucks at any time, so post yourself accordingly and allow the masses to work for you.
Winter has officially begun in many portions of Montana, especially at higher elevations. Snow accumulations are significant enough that they could spark a mass exodus to lower elevations, pushing deer out of thicker mountain habitats and into more accessible valleys.
Mike Ellig, owner of Black Gold Sights, bowhunts east of the Bozeman area. He hasn't witnessed any rut behavior and guesses it's a good two to three weeks out. Younger bucks have been aggressively sparring and beginning to rub, with only the occasional scrape appearing so far.
Dustin DeCroo of Bighorn Outfitters in Buffalo, Wyoming, says the past three days have seen some excellent deer movement, including a good amount of daytime activity. DeCroo attributes this to the cold front moving through the area. He reports that they tagged five bucks during the week, and all were at least 5 1/2 years old. He says deer have begun slowly returning to fields and are appearing earlier than they were during the first week of the season. DeCroo expects hunting to be excellent this weekend, and says it's a great time to tag a mature buck.
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