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Winter Escalated Quickly in the Northwest … But Not the Rut

White-Tailed Deer


Winter Escalated Quickly in the Northwest … But Not the Rut

Posted 2023-10-31  by  Jackie Holbrook

Check out the latest word from the northwestern stretch of the country

Hunters spent Montana’s opening weekend enjoying sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. Hunting photographer Steven Drake had just barely put his bow away for the season, when luck would have it, his bow would’ve worked just fine to seal the deal during general season. Drake used his rifle to shoot a mature mule deer at under 20 yards. He managed to sneak up on the buck hanging with does in timber. “I didn’t see any rut activity. That said, with this cold weather I’d expect things to pick up,” Drake reported.

Drake managed to get out of the mountains just before Montana’s first major snowfall of the season. Boy was it a doozy, as my 6-year-old daughter would say. Just three days into general season, a storm blanketed the state with up to two feet of snow. With close to 72 hours of practically sustained snowfall, wildlife and people laid pretty low. Winter weather shut down roads, stranding some hunters due to slick road conditions and iced-up rivers. The storm swept through the state, leaving behind bitter and unseasonably cold temperatures. Not only did temperatures drop below freezing, in some areas they fell below 0.

This extreme winter weather made its way across the entire Northwest. Portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming all experienced heavy snow and freezing temperatures. The severity of the storm, sudden swing in temperatures, and dangerous travel conditions kept many hunters inside this week.

The day following the storm I set my sights on trying to catch up with a river bottom whitetail buck. As I trudged through snow past my knees two hours before shooting light, I could see the ag land clearly visible thanks to the full moon. The only thing that made the horizon less visible was the fog my breath created in the 5-degree Fahrenheit weather. I glassed several does feeding in fields well into the morning but never managed to catch a glimpse of a buck. I also wasn’t able to spot any scrapes with the fresh snow but I did find some fresh rubs. I know there are bucks around, I just haven’t found them.

Montana’s mule deer are exhibiting some pre-rut behaviors. The bachelor groups I’ve seen in recent weeks have separated and single bucks are starting to hang with groups of does. I spotted a mature buck doing some chasing. He made for a beautiful sight in the snow with his swollen neck.

The storm is gone but the snow and cold weather are sticking around for the coming week. Both whitetail and mule deer bachelor groups are broken up and bucks are starting to search for does. Hunting might turn scary good the week of Halloween.


  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding

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