Though mature buck activity is still scarce, now is the time to hunt major travel corridors
With snow hitting the ground in much of the West, the excitement of the impending deer rut can hardly be contained. We had an epic first rifle elk season, as did many of the other outfitters I've spoken with. That only helps fuel the excitement. We have leaves on the trees later than usual and have had no snow storms to speak of until now.
With the mild fall, I had gotten skeptical as to the timing of the rut for this year. The area that I have been hunting doesn't have a large summer deer population. They pile in for the rut though. Three weeks ago, I would have guessed a late rut. Today, I'm not so sure. The number of deer that have moved in over the last two weeks is pretty incredible. I was talking with one of my friends, Travis Reed, who owns Western Sky Outfitters and Elk Quest, and he said the same. Reed is in far southwest Colorado, more than 200 miles south of me as the crow flies, yet he has observed the same pattern. Does are starting to show up everywhere and small bucks are staging up and getting ready for the rut. Reed said the bucks he's seeing are in bachelor groups, but new bucks are showing up every day. In my experience, the mature bucks usually hang out a little longer before committing to the rut and winter grounds.
The good news is that mature bucks will be traveling soon if they aren't already. Historically, many of the biggest mule deer we kill each year are in the pre-rut travel stage. It's worth checking the groups of does right now just in case, but you will likely find the big guys staying solitary and still in their summer areas, or on the travel path to the rutting grounds. Colorado's second rifle season starts on October 29th and I will be hunting travel corridors as much or more than food sources.
Utah's general rifle deer season is going right now. I haven't heard of any rut to speak of but I know of a couple big deer killed in travel corridors. One such buck was observed in his summer territory until October 20, then killed 8 miles away on the 22nd in a well-known travel corridor. He was heading to the low country to find some ladies. He had been within a few square miles for all of the last month and a half, then one day he left, and another lucky hunter happened to be in the right spot at the right time as he walked by.
On the whitetail front, I'm hearing of elevated rubbing and scraping action in north Texas and even the Hill Country. Some amazing deer have been taken already, though generally on food sources. Within the next two weeks I would expect the mature bucks in those areas to start seeking does coming into estrus. The southern third of the Southwest region still has a ways to go. About the time the northern half of the region is done, is about when the far south will just start to get going.
(Don't Miss: How to Hunt the Phases of the Rut)