California leads the way, but most rut activity is weeks away
Many hunters across the country anticipate the rut all year but only get to enjoy it for a few weeks, usually in October and November. Living in the West, I can hunt something in the rut from September through December, and even into January in the southern portions of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. As of Oct. 3, I've finished archery elk season in Colorado and am in the prime of rifle pronghorn season.
The elk rut was very good in September. The first week was standard, with only small signs of the pre-rut, but bulls started to turn it on the second week. Each day seemed to get better and better after that. The previous few years, our elk rut has started later in September and continued through mid-October. Historically, that's a couple of weeks later than normal. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that pattern continues with our first rifle elk season, which starts Oct. 15.
The pronghorn rut is full blast right now. Two days ago, I had to wait for almost 10 minutes for two bucks to stop fighting so we could kill one of them. All the while, I hoped he didn't break a prong or horn tip as we watched. Today, I spent three hours set up to shoot while a buck ran does and other bucks in circles. Eventually, he caught movement from one of us and ran in to investigate. His curiosity and testosterone level ultimately killed him.
Enough of that. This report is about deer. California's A zone is the only area in the Southwest region that has seen any rut yet. According to Sam McGuire, of McGuire Ballistics and SMC Guide Service, if you had an A zone tag, you needed to be in the woods the final week of the season. The public-land guys I spoke with said it was hit or miss, but private land was on fire.
The next signs of rut should occur in California's B zone and some northern areas of Colorado, Utah and Nevada, though those are likely weeks away. As the days drag on, we will keep our finger on the pulse of the rut activity.
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