What Rut Activity Are You Seeing?
If you're sitting in northern whitetail country with snow piling up around your ears, some vacation time available and a deep yearning for a little more bowhunting, remember that Arizona archery Coues whitetail tags (and desert mule deer) are sold over the counter. Millions of acres of public lands are wide open to visiting hunters. Desert mountain ranges in the southeastern portion of the state are most reliable, including the Chiricuhua, Dragoon, Patagonia, Santa Rita, Whetstone, Winchester, Pinaleno, Santa Catalina and Rincon ranges. Coues deer are beginning to rut now, with this action only increasing in the coming weeks.
New Mexico outfitter and game commissioner Ralph Ramos, tells me the eastern whitetails down in the Sacramento Mountains of southeastern New Mexico are firmly into rut mode, creating rub lines and scrapes and aggressively chasing does. He says an accumulation of up to 30 inches of snow has pushed many bucks from higher elevations and into more-accessible areas. These whitetails were transplanted into the area decades ago, have remained stable through the years and more recently are beginning to spread into new areas. The Cloudcroft and Weed areas of New Mexico are the epicenter of these Western whitetails. These late-rut dates likely result to coincide with late-June and July monsoons, which bring much-needed moisture to the Southwest.
Over in the southwestern portion of the state, Coues whitetails are gradually slipping into the rut. New rub lines and scrapes are popping up daily and bucks are nosing does. Now would be a good time to try some rattling and grunting in thicker areas, or to guard a scrape line from a stand or blind. Like Eastern whitetails, hunting major signboard scrapes is where you'll find success, as many lesser aggression-displacement scrapes will appear and are seldom revisited. Of course, spot-and-stalk ploys will become increasingly productive as bucks become more worked up as the rut ramps up and they lose a bit of inherent caution.
Texas' general season closes January 6 in 226 northern counties and January 20 in 30 southern counties; with youth seasons extending to January 20 in many northern counties and special late seasons (spikes and does) extending to February 3 in 106 northern and 30 southern counties.
Steven Tisdale, up in northwestern Texas, says does are now being seen in large groups again. Bucks have recovered from the rut and have begun appearing at feeders predictably. Sitting over a feeder is a good bet this weekend.
Farther south in the San Angelo area, Ronnie Parsons says the second rut has kicked in and older bucks have black hocks from the gland to the ground. These bucks have again abandoned feeders, showing up only once or twice a week. Does put on a bit of weight at feeders the last couple weeks, but are again shunning them to avoid getting harassed by bucks. He says nomadic bucks are a possibility this weekend — reminding hunters this is the last weekend for tagging mature bucks in the northern tier of Texas. The following week, the season will allow harvesting only does and spikes.
Mike Stroff, host of Savage Outdoors and owner of hunting operations in South Texas (Uvalde, SOE Hunts) and the Hill Country (Sonora, Canyon Ranch), tells me rut activity on his ranches has slowed considerably. He says bucks are still hitting scrapes, but he is seeing a lot more mature bucks returning to food. He expects that hunting good food sources will be the avenue to success in the coming week. Stroff believes there are a few does that haven't been bred, and that they will cycle again, but this activity will be limited.
Eddie Stevenson, owner of Driftwood Media, who also hunts in the Uvalde area, reports that he is seeing less activity on his feeders, attributing it to possible lockdown.
Joni Sanderford, on the Croton Creek Ranch in western Oklahoma, reports that they are seeing bucks emerging into feeding areas early in the evening (particularly winter wheat), and that these bucks have begun to reassemble into bachelor groups once more. She says they have also seen a handful of bucks still chasing does, likely a result of secondary rut activity.
Colorado is now closed for the season.
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Tom Reichner
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