Little bucks are chasing and sparring, and a giant could appear at any time in the days ahead
It seems as though the cold front we had last week helped kick the deer into gear. The early rifle season in Arizona's famed Kaibab Region just ended and, man, what a season it was! The quality of some of the bucks taken last week is just awesome. Obviously when you draw one of these coveted tags, quality is what you are hoping for. Most of the Southwest has been drought stricken for a while but this year's considerable moisture came when it was needed, and antler growth is very good as a result.
I always look forward to what comes out of the Kaibab, as some of my favorite mule deer genetics come from that area. I was especially interested last week as my good friend and accomplished global hunter, Lucas Paugh (@lucas.paugh.805 Instagram), was accompanying a friend of his who had the coveted tag in his pocket. As you would expect on a pre-rut hunt, the mature bucks were largely solitary or in small bachelor groups but an early dumping of snow got them up and moving a bit. Throughout the week Lucas observed smaller bucks starting to gather in with the does. The immature bucks were starting to seek along with some sparring and chasing, all good signs that the rut is close. Ultimately, they ended up taking a buck that is 32.5 inches wide, with a high 190s typical frame and matching kickers that propel his gross just over 200 inches. A dream buck in every sense of the word.
In Colorado, my deer activity aligned almost exactly with that of the Kaibab. The does are piling into their normal rut areas, but the big guys have yet to show up. The small bucks are chasing although I don't think they know what they are chasing yet. There's lots of sparring between the little guys and I'm seeing more rubs showing up. This is the most exciting time of the year for me because any day now, a giant will just appear, seemingly out of thin air with the does.
For most of the mountain and high desert mule deer of the Southwest region, the prime of the rut is likely still a few weeks out. It's looking like mid-November will be primetime for much of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. My tactics this week will be checking the does each day but glassing travel corridors as much as possible. I kill a lot of my biggest deer in their transition between summer habitat and where the does are staging up.
We are starting to see heavy scraping and rubbing in North Texas down to the Hill Country. If I could be in Texas on my lease right now, I would be in the stand every day possible, as bucks are starting to seek and scent check, looking for does in estrus. The rut timing there is looking similar to our mule deer here in Colorado. There is activity but I don't expect the best to come for another couple weeks.
(Don't Miss: How to Hunt the Phases of the Rut)