Necks are swollen and even some mature bucks are on the move now. It's time to get out there and hunt
It finally feels like hunting season in the Northwest. Temperatures have dropped from unseasonably warm, and many areas experienced the first snow accumulation of the season. Within the past week, hunters are finally starting to see those tell-tale signs of the rut as October turns to November.
Just one look at the swollen necks on some of the mule deer bucks being taken in Wyoming will tell you the rut is around the corner for muleys. Hunters are reporting rubs, seeking and fighting amongst smaller bucks. Some of the older, more mature bucks have traveled out of the mountains and are on the move. Now is the time to be hunting all day as you can catch bucks moving at all hours as they enter the seeking phase.
Montana's mule deer seem to be on a similar schedule. I spotted a pair of young bucks sparring. The battle was then followed by both bucks rubbing on trees. There also seems to be an increase in mature mule deer on the move. Just this morning, I spotted a 4x4 hot on the heels of a doe.
Montana's whitetails are busy making rubs and scrapes. On my most recent whitetail outing I saw several fresh rubs. There's minimal seeking behavior. The whitetail bucks I saw were either solo or still hanging out in groups of bucks. I only glassed smaller bucks with herds of does.
Many of the whitetail bucks are still mostly nocturnal but if you can catch one on the move between bedding and feeding areas just after daylight or in the few minutes before dark, you might get lucky. That's exactly what happened to me this week. My husband and I took our 5-year-old daughter out for an afternoon whitetail hunt. The wind was blowing about 30 miles per hour, which, as it turns out, is perfect for masking a squirmy, chatty kid.
We hiked a couple of miles into a spot overlooking a feeding area. Our daughter built a fort, whispered and drew out her hunt plans, and ate crunchy snacks. Luckily, the constant wind gusts masked her sound and movement. My hopes weren't exactly high for filling my tag but it was fun to be together as a family. But that's what I love about deer hunting as it gets closer to the rut. When you're least expecting it, a buck can appear.
With about 30 minutes left of shooting light left we spotted a 4x4 running across the field. My husband stopped him with a grunt just in time for me to connect on a shot with my rifle. It's a night none of us will forget. My daughter asked all types of questions during the quartering process and led the way with her headlamp on the dark hike out.
Hunting with family often provides the best memories. Podcast host and musician Dave Brinker's son recently shot his first buck in Oregon. Brinker reported that in Oregon the blacktails are mostly nocturnal, but there are small bucks out with does during the day.
With the majority of hunting seasons in the Northwest coming to a close in November, now is a great time to get out as rut activity should begin to increase every day.
(Don't Miss: How to Hunt the Phases of the Rut)