Now is the time to cash in your vacation days and spend time in the field
The rut is on in the northern half of the Southwest region. A few days ago, I drove with my two hunters into an area that has produced many good bucks in the past. It was pretty early, around four in the afternoon, before the time changed, so we had about two and half hours of daylight left. To my surprise, a giant old buck stood in the field staring at a group of does about 100 yards from him. By the time I saw him, he had already pegged us. I glassed him from 800 yards and knew he was a shooter. He didn't give us a chance. He wasted no time and bolted into the thick stuff and disappeared.
The next morning, we were in there again and found no sign of that buck or anything else of his caliber. In the afternoon, we looked out over a sage flat about a mile away from where we were in the morning. On cue, like the day before, I spotted a giant old buck come out of the thick stuff and into the sage flat. He started pushing does immediately. With my spotting scope, I confirmed it was the buck from the day before and we immediately made a play on him. It worked. We had a 5x4 buck on the ground that I believe to be 8 years old, plus or minus.
The next morning was like deja vu. As daylight broke, we were in the same area where we'd first seen the buck from the day before. And there in the same field, in nearly the exact same spot, stood an absolute stud about 100 yards from the does. My client had some physical limitations, so I tried to sneak closer with the pickup before starting our stalk. From 1,000 yards that buck caught a glimpse of my pickup and disappeared into the brush.
That afternoon we found ourselves on the same point overlooking the same sage flat at the same does. And just as the day before, out walks the buck from the morning. After getting a good look at him, I realized he was a buck I had spotted four days earlier about 2 miles from where he stood now, pushing does. We made the same plan as the day before, and it worked just as it had 24 hours earlier. This buck was a 5- or 6-year-old 6x5. The two bucks died within 200 yards of each other, and the same hot doe was to blame for both of their deaths.
In the past few days, I've witnessed plenty of chasing and fighting. Although I haven't watched it happen, I think some does are in estrus and already getting bred. A little farther south in southern Colorado, Clay Hill of Hill Guides and Outfitters says they are about a week or so behind the northern parts. Clay is well known as a big mule deer authority, and I have been fortunate to know and hunt with him for nearly 20 years. Clay says he's noticing the bucks are on the move and staging up. Lots of smaller bucks are getting in with the does, but the big ones aren't there yet. He's seeing a lot of night activity out of the mature bucks that are seeking and looking for their first sign of a doe in heat. The rut has definitely started, but our best days are still a week away. Third and fourth rifle seasons should be prime time.
The Panhandle, Hill Country, and north-central Texas have some good rut action starting. On my personal lease in north-central Texas, the deer are cruising and the smaller bucks are already in with the does. Much like what Clay is seeing in southern Colorado, the big bucks are doing most of their moving at night, but any day now they will be getting in with the does. I have been getting photo after photo of big Texas bucks coming in. Now is the time to be hunting in these areas.
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