Every week this fall, I’ll be providing updates on whitetail buck movement for the entire country. These reports are based on intel from whitetailers in each region and my own observations as a traveling deer hunter. For more info like this, subscribe to the Rut Fresh Radio Podcast and Whitetail Weekly Newsletter. Rut Fresh Reports are powered by onX.
Right now is many dedicated deer hunters’ favorite time of year to tag a mature whitetail—even though we’re still two weeks out from the best rutting activity for most of the country. These next 10 days are when homebody bucks will get out of their beds a little sooner in the evening, freshen their favorite scrapes in daylight, and start checking doe groups for those first willing females.
Last week, those wise bucks would still have been following their nocturnal tendencies. Next week, they’ll give into restlessness and make some extended walkabouts. The week after that, they might follow some hot doe into the next county to shack up—never to be seen again. That’s why the end of October gives data-driven bowhunters the best chance at killing familiar deer.
If you want a shot at one of those whitetail bucks you’ve only seen in night-time trail cam pictures, focus on staging areas near bedding, hot food sources where does congregate, and fresh sign that will peak in the coming week. This is a good time to dig through those onX pins of rubs and scrapes that you found while shed hunting.
This is also a great time to utilize your rattling antlers and grunt tube. I killed one of my biggest whitetails on Oct. 25 by challenging a buck that was just out of range at sunset. The broken-up 10-pointer was walking away from me at 60 yards when I stopped him with one series of grunts, changed his direction with a second series of grunts, and slipped an arrow into his heart as he arrived at the base of my tree. That’s a classic late-October encounter that many deer hunters could replicate between now and the end of the month.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
Hunters in this part of the country experienced the perfect cold front at about this time in 2020. When I wrote my Rut Report that year, I called it a “godsend for whitetail hunters.” Last year didn’t get that same divine weather forecast, and hunters this year won’t, either. This continues a trend of monotonous weather for hunters in the East.
So, what does that mean for this weekend? Anticipate the steady temps to make for gradual changes. The buck movement this weekend will probably be 10% better than it was last weekend, and next weekend it’ll be 10% better than it was this weekend. Don’t make a swing-for-the-fences hunt quite yet, but you should be getting closer to buck bedding with each hunt for the rest of the month.
The rut in the South is all over the map this time of year, as Kyler Moppert explained on a previous episode of Rut Fresh Radio. While you have deer in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Arkansas that follow a more Midwestern rut, herds in places like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida are well behind. They won’t rut for another month.
If you hunt a place that has deer in all phases of the rut and you aren’t sure how to target them, make food your focus. You can’t go wrong by hunting food sources during any phase of the rut, and the South is no exception. The best natural food sources to focus on right now are acorns, persimmons, apples, and kudzu. The same goes for rubs and scrapes—whether the deer you’re hunting are in pre-rut or summer patterns, fresh sign is always relevant.
Similar to the East, the cold fronts have largely been nonexistent this fall. What Mark Kenyon refers to as “micro cold fronts” have made a few appearances, but none of the 20-degree drops you hope for. Those micro fronts can still have an impact, just not at the scale of when the mercury plummets.
Weather be damned, sign-making is heating up across the region right now. Look for rubs and scrapes in timber, as well as any buck sign you can find near hot acorn trees. Some parts of the region will be pushing 80 degrees this weekend, which should make you consider hunting water. Scour onX for creek crossings and water holes that sit between bedding and food. Even if it’s not a spot you want to hunt this weekend, it’ll be a productive place to kill a buck at midday during the peak of the rut.
Congrats, western whitetail hunters: You get a cold front this weekend that the rest of the country will be envious of. From today’s high to Saturday’s high, there will be a 40-degree swing for much of the region. Now that doesn’t mean bucks will lose their minds and start full-blown rutting, but it does mean they should be a bit more active in the daytime.
Focus your efforts on fresh deer sign near food sources. Rubbing and scraping will hit an all-time high between now and Nov. 1, which is great for archers who hunt hardwoods. If you’re carrying a rifle this weekend, find staging areas with good visibility to hunt in the mornings, and ag fields with nearby timber to hunt in the evenings. Both spots will produce bucks in the first and last hour of daylight.