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Elk Rut was On Fire in Parts of Southwest, Deer Hunting is Picking Up



Elk Rut was On Fire in Parts of Southwest, Deer Hunting is Picking Up

Posted 2023-10-10  by  Miles Fedinec

The rut’s kicking for some coastal blacktail hunters, but the mule deer and whitetail action is weeks away in most of the region

Though we’re mostly here to talk deer hunting in the rut report, elk are cervids and this year’s elk rut has been so good for me that I have to talk about it. I opened the season on September 2nd by calling in a nice 5x5 bull. He wasn’t too turned on until I beat the hell out of a bush with my bugle tube and mimicked a bull pushing around some cows. This series of calling ultimately ended up in a 13-yard shot for my hunter and a heavy pack out on opening day. We continued to have good success for the entire archery season with bulls moving in and being vocal. For whatever reason, these bulls were very receptive to the call this year. I keep hoping that maybe I just got better at it, but the likelihood is that it was just a good year and I will pay for my successes down the road.

I’m writing this during a midday break between hunts in a very special unit in Colorado where everyone is a hero caller. The bull-to-cow ratio is so out of whack that calling in bulls is extremely successful. It seems you call in a bull or two every time you blow a call, just usually not the bull you’re actually trying to call in. We killed a big herd bull yesterday, but even with a rifle it was difficult. There were 12 bulls trying to court the one hot cow in the group, which kept the bulls running like crazy. The rut is ultimately what got the bull killed as I called his cows to me, and he was not going to let them out of his sight. There was no chance of calling him away from that hot cow.

The reports have been more mixed elsewhere in Colorado and the rest of the Southwest region. It’s been slow in New Mexico, hot in parts of Utah and Arizona, and dead in others. I’m not sure what the difference is, but it’s divided. While parts of Colorado and Wyoming were hammered with winter kill, moisture in other states was a blessing and some unbelievable animals have been killed this year. The elk rut is full on in most places so if you can hunt them right now, you should be. On to deer.

Right now, California’s A zone is really the only place to talk about in the Southwest, as far as the deer rut goes. For some firsthand knowledge I checked in with local hunting and ballistics guru Sam McGuire from McGuire ballistics and SMC Guide Service. Sam said the blacktail deer on the coast were done or almost done rutting while inland only a few miles, they were getting going. With a few weeks of the season left, now is a great time to be out. I expect the next 10 days to be really good for everything that’s not directly on the coast. Bucks are chasing and if you find does, you can be sure a buck is close by. My best advice during the rut is to keep track of the does and check them often. Pay attention for bucks traveling to find does in heat at the beginning and toward the end of the rut cycle.

The next area that we will see rut activity will be the Texas Hill Country. We are a likely a couple weeks away, but you could start to see pre-rut signs very soon.


  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding

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