Whitetail Update: Midwest Rut Report


As I write this quick update, eastern South Dakota is under a blizzard warning, with rain turning to sleet turning to snow, with about 6 inches of snow predicted. Of course, out here on the prairie, the snow itself isn’t so much of a problem, it’s the wind that blows that snow (think whiteout). Steady winds on Friday (November 18) are expected to be 30-35 mph, with gusts as high as 55 mph!

Needless to say, I won’t be climbing into a treestand Friday, but that doesn’t mean I’m taking the day off. After all, it’s the whitetail rut! I have a few spots where I can sit on the ground and look down steep hillsides at whitetail travel corridors, so that’s my plan. Chances are good I’ll be swapping brown camo for my winter whites!

If you read my “hit list” article from November 7, then you saw several of the bucks that have spent some time on my SoDak river-bottom. I’ve been in the field a lot during the past 2 weeks, and I’ve seen a good number of the bucks shown in these photos, as well as some new ones. I’ve passed on several 4x4s and even a couple 5x5s because the bucks were only 2.5 years old. My hope is to arrow an older deer.

This past Sunday, November 13, I had a 3.5-year-old 4×4 approach my buck decoy twice an hour apart, and for several reasons (62 degrees high; local meat locker closed; traveling back to Minneapolis that afternoon; etc.) I decided not to shoot. I’m fairly confident he’s the buck shown on the scouting cam pic from October 26 in my previous article. Check out the smartphone photo below and decide for yourself.

Cropped image of big 4x4 shown in pic at top of page.
Cropped image of big 4×4 shown in pic at top of page.

While some rutting bucks are chasing, others are tending, and on their feet only when their hot doe moves. This is a period when just about anything can happen in the deer woods, so the best plan is to spend as much time as possible in the field. I like to sit near traditional doe bedding areas.

This young 4x4 is lucky he's not a bit older.
This young 4×4 is lucky he’s not a bit older.

I’ll end this article with a couple of interesting selfie pics. On the morning of November 9, I had a Facebook reminder of a post I’d made exactly a year earlier. As you can see in the 2015 pic, I had a decent 4×4 approach a doe decoy, and I took the opportunity to snap a selfie with the buck. After seeing that reminder post, I wondered if I could pull off the same trick a year later, and as you’ll see far below, it worked . . . from the same treestand!

Nov. 9, 2015, selfie with buck.
Nov. 9 2015 selfie with buck.
Nov. 9 2016 selfie with buck.
Nov. 9 2016 selfie with buck checking out doe decoy.

Good luck hunting!

Nov. 18 weather/hunting update: As I stated above, I planned to bowhunt rutting whitetails today regardless of the weather, but I can’t access my hunting property. I left my in-law’s at 5:50 a.m. (sunrise at 7:28 a.m.), and as soon as I drove my pickup onto the two-lane north/south county road and cleared the shelterbelt around the homestead, I could barely make out the sides of the road. And conditions worsened quickly thereafter. About a mile down the road I almost had a head-on wreck – my fault, I was in the other lane and didn’t know it! At that point, the only thing keeping my truck out of the ditch was the rumble strips on the road shoulder. There were moments I almost came to a complete stop on the 60-mph road because I had no idea where to go. Of course, stopping on a road like this is a recipe for disaster, and all I wanted to do was turn around and head back to my in-law’s house. But I couldn’t see any intersecting roads or driveways in these whiteout conditions. Finally, after 30 minutes of driving/limping (only 6 miles!), I was able to identify a turn-off and took it. Once I was a safe distance off the paved county road, I shut off my truck and waited for daylight. Thankfully, I had a packed food and water, had a full tank of gas, and plenty of warm clothes. I even carry a sleeping bag in my truck for winter emergencies. After waiting 2 hours, I decided to make an attempt at driving back to my in-law’s. With even heavier snow and stronger winds predicted, conditions were only going to get worse. Luckily, I spotted two pickups making their way south down the county road at the same time I was beginning my trek, so I pulled in behind them, engaged my hazard lights, and slowly made it back to town. Lesson learned? It’s not worth risking your life, or that of another driver, for whitetails . . . even during the rut. Be CAREFUL out there!

Here’s what eastern South Dakota looks like on the morning of November 18 from the protection of a shelterbelt. That gap in the trees is the driveway entrance to the two-lane country road. Visibility beyond the trees is 0 to 30 feet. Not good for driving!
Here’s what eastern South Dakota looks like on the morning of November 18 from the protection of a shelterbelt. That gap in the trees is the driveway entrance to the two-lane country road. Visibility beyond the trees is 0 to 30 feet. Not good for driving!

P.S. Check out the photo below of my hunting/fishing buddy, Scott. During midday when the temp was too warm for buck movement, we hammered monster perch from a nearby stock dam. Fun!

12 inches of SoDak perch.
Read More