There's still a little time left on the clock, and the deer are still doing their thing.
Thanksgiving in many parts of the Northwest is a time for family and a last-ditch opportunity to fill a deer tag before the season ends. General deer seasons have already closed in most parts of Oregon, Wyoming, and Washington.
When the 2021 hunting season wraps, the story many will tell will likely be of unseasonably warm weather, lack of snowfall, and some displaced deer populations. It's been a rough season in the Northwest, especially for elk hunters who rely heavily on fresh snow to improve their odds of success. While data is still coming in through reporting and check stations, hunters shouldn't be surprised to hear about overall lower harvest statistics in many regions.
Reports coming out of Oregon and Washington are that the blacktail deer rut has wound down. Peak breeding seems to have happened within the first couple of weeks of November and has since tapered off.
Hunters who are stretching their deer tags until the last minute in Idaho and Montana are saying that whitetails and mule deer are either in the peak of breeding or it's winding down. Now is a great time to find a mature buck locked in on a group of does. In some parts of Idaho and Montana, friends have reported that the whitetail rut seemed to arrive a bit early this year. In these areas, breeding activity has slowed down and many of the bucks are back in hiding. That could mean less movement and daylight activity in the season's final days.
I've got two days left to fill my deer tag in Montana. But even if I do manage to find personal success, I don't think anything could top last week's hunting experience. My friend Mallory and I went out on our girls only hunting trip with the goal of getting Mallory her first muley buck. Rut activity appeared much different from the week prior. Bucks had moved from what many people call the chasing phase to the tending phase. We didn't see any bachelor groups or fighting behavior. Instead of watching bucks chase does throughout the morning, they were bedded up with does. It didn't make it more difficult to find bucks, but they were in slightly different areas. They appeared in more cover and bedded much earlier in the day.
After a couple of close calls where we just couldn't get close enough for a shot, we bumped into some luck. We were looking for a place to glass, eat lunch, and get out of the afternoon winds. As we rounded a corner into a bowl, we spotted the unmistakable outline of a buck. Mallory got her rifle set up as we watched the buck breed a doe. When eventually presented a shot (after the breeding), Mallory took it and got her first mule deer. We quartered the buck and packed it out the nearly 2 miles to the truck. Technicians at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks estimated the buck to be around 8 years old.
Muster the energy to finish the season strong, and you might be rewarded with a mature buck. There's still breeding activity happening. If you can find the does, you'll have a good chance at spotting a buck. Temperatures across the Northwest have finally dropped to more seasonal averages, which should also improve deer movement during the day. If your season is still open, don't give up yet. You may not have a lot of time left, but conditions are right to make something happen.
(Don't Miss: Ghost Busters: What to Do When Your Buck Disappears)