By Mark Kenyon
Welcome to “Sweet November”! The much awaited rut has arrived and the fun is just beginning. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook lately, I know you’re seeing the same thing I am. Bucks hitting the ground like crazy!
That said, while it seems plenty of folks out there are having success – I am still not! The action has definitely picked up, and I’ve had some terrific encounters, but still no buck on the ground. None the less, here’s a quick recap of my hunts so far, the rut activity I’ve seen, and a few lessons learned along the way!
This past week (plus a few days) has been a whirlwind, and I guess that should be expected given the time of year. I have hunted every day so far, except one over the past 9 days, and I’m definitely starting to feel the effect on my body and psyche. And while I’ve been hunting hard for quite a while now, things didn’t really start getting interesting until this past Thursday, October 31st.
That evening was horribly windy and very wet. I’m talking 20+ MPH winds and non-stop torrential rain. Nonetheless, I wasn’t about to miss out on hunting Halloween and I know big bucks move in the rain. So I decided to head out to the edge of my sanctuary and hunt up near a popular doe bedding area.
I was in for a long, wet, cold sit. But my reward? An encounter with one of my top hit list bucks, Six Shooter (see his photo from that night below)! At 4:30 in the afternoon he cruised downwind of the bedding area I was hunting, but remained about 30-40 yards out of my range. Awesome encounter.
The next day, November 1, I headed back in to the general area and got settled in to my stand an hour and a half before daylight. Throughout the morning I saw numerous small bucks and does, but nothing big was moving. That is until the afternoon. At about 1:00 PM I spotted antlers deep in the swamp, and after pulling up my binoculars I knew who I was looking at. My other top buck on this farm, Leaner!
Leaner actually was locked on to a doe and paced nervously back and forth around her, fending off other younger bucks who came in to investigate. Leaner never left this patch of cover in the heart of the swamp from 1:00 PM all the way until dark. Two days in a row now, I’d seen my top two bucks in Michigan.
That evening though I was scheduled to leave my home state of Michigan, and join my buddy Josh on a week long rut hunting trip to Ohio! So off I went to chase big Southern Ohio bucks.
Since then I’ve hunted four days at our Ohio lease. The hunting has been so-so.
The first day, after Josh having to deal with a bad case of food poisoning, was pretty rough. We saw no deer until after shooting light had faded.
Day two started off rough as well, as I got lost and couldn’t find my intended stand for the morning! (Later that day I found that I had only been about 30 yards away from my stand!) That said, it was almost meant to be, as I encountered a gorgeous 130 class 10 pointer while hunting from the field edge stand I fell back on after getting lost. While the encounter was quick and without a shot opportunity, it certainly got me reenergized for the trip.
Later that evening, after finding the stand I originally wanted to hunt, I began seeing good late action. Several 2.5 old bucks were spotted cruising, and at last light I nearly sent an arrow through the air.
As light was quickly fading, a nice “10 pointer” began walking down the ridge I was sitting. At first glance, upon seeing his left side, I immediately thought “shooter”. But with the light so minimal, I needed my binoculars to better inspect. And as I examined the buck, I noticed his right side was severely stunted with only a fork on the end of the beam. After much pondering, and with nearly no camera light, I decided this wasn’t the buck I wanted to take.
Day thee in Ohio started off with a bang as well, as four different “decent” bucks all cruised by my stand – including the 8 pointer in the photo below who offered plenty of easy shots. It’s seemed that the young bucks are definitely on the move, but older deer are still not very visible. The story was the same today as well, as just a few dinks and does were seen by Josh and I.
From here we’re dealing with a horribly warm day tomorrow (68 degrees), but hope is on the horizon. A hard cold front is hitting Thursday and dropping the temps down by about 20 degrees! I’ve got my fingers crossed that the action will really get rolling at that point!
So, when it comes to rut observations we’ve seen a few things. First off, we’re beginning to see a lot of cruising, but this is almost completely in the form of immature bucks. We’ve also seen some chasing, but again, almost only immature bucks.
The exceptions to these two generalizations were the encounters I had in Michigan, in which two mature bucks (Six Shooter + Leaner) were cruising and locked in with a doe.
That said, at least from what I’m seeing down here in Ohio, we’re still not seeing many does coming into estrous. The mad house dash that usually occurs when does are popping just hasn’t seemed to be happening yet. I’ve got a feeling that this cold front though could really snap things into gear.
I’m expecting to see older age class bucks really picking up their cruising during daylight in the next couple days, and hardcore chasing should follow shortly.
All this being said, note that these are just observations from my neck of the woods and things are likely different in many different locations.
So given all of the hunting I’ve been doing over the past week plus, you’d think I’d have a learned a few lessons, and I think I have.
First off, I was reminded (once again), of the importance of hunting in bad weather. Wind, rain, snow. When the weather gets nasty, deer get on their feet. And if you can weather the storm, you can be in for some great action. I came 30 yards from killing Six Shooter, and that was well worth the couple hours getting soaked.
Secondly, as mentioned in a post earlier this week, you need to remember to never give up hope during the rut. We’ve all had those days where it seems there’s not a deer for miles, and it’s easy to get down on yourself. But during the rut, everything can change in a second.
I’ve had a couple different days here over the past week where things were just dead and I was beginning to get down on myself. But, as is often the case during the rut, a surprise encounter with a big buck renewed my hope. That said, no matter how tough the hunting gets, keep your head up and stay focused. During the rut, anything can happen
We’re getting into the best days of the rut now, and it’s only a matter of time before something good happens. I’ve got high hopes for whats to come!
Good luck to you all! May you enjoy the outdoors, shoot straight and stay wired to hunt!