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 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.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
East Last year at this time, I said the approaching cold front on the East Coast was “God-sent for deer hunters.” That same divine weather pattern won’t happen in 2021, which is on par with the rest of the month. Honestly, this has been one of the most disappointing Octobers for whitetailers and cold fronts across the country—the East included. And it doesn’t seem like there’s an end in sight.
So, what does that mean for deer hunters this weekend? Anticipate the monotonous weather 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 what 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.
South The rut in the South is all over the map this time of year, as Kyler Moppert explained on this week’s 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 would be 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.
Midwest 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. While rubs and scrapes in timber are the most productive places to be this time of year, some field edge sign posts are getting a bit of daylight movement. If you’re doing some in-season scouting right now with intentions of hunting this weekend, you should be looking for hot acorn trees that are located between bedding and destination food (like a corn field or clear cut). If a buck is in the area, he’ll have a scrape nearby that he’ll be regularly visiting over the next 10 days. This is a good time to dig through those onX pins you dropped while shed hunting of rubs and scrapes in cover.
West Last year at this time, the West was getting hammered by snow and record-breaking low temperatures. This year will be very mild—highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s are the norm right now, which is about a 60-degree difference from 2020. Buck movement this year will look drastically different than last year, as deer won’t be forced to follow their stomachs to the best food in the area.
I think this weekend will be an eye-opening one for whitetailers across the region. With the beautiful weather, there will be hordes of elk, deer, antelope, pheasant, and duck hunters in the field. Reports of deer dead from EHD have been trickling in across the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming for the last month, but I think this weekend might bring even more discoveries. Be on the lookout for Facebook posts and state agency announcements about more dead deer being found.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.