Rut in full swing as hunters set out for deer season
The rut is on! The white-tailed buck deer rut that is. By all accounts, it has been on for a couple of weeks. It will continue right up to, and perhaps overlap the upcoming nine-day gun deer season. Some years the rut joins the gun hunt – some years it’s all but over before the first shot rings out.
Female white-tailed deer come into “season” once a year – in Wisconsin, during the months of October and November. They give birth to one to three fawns about seven months later, in mid- to late spring, generally in May or June. Male white-tailed deer, normally secretive and nocturnal in nature, drop their guard during the breeding season and appear throughout the day.
Bow hunters know the rutting season better than most folks. They plan their vacations and save days off for the peak of the rut – the first week in November. Friends Dan and Jim are spending the better part of this week at Dan’s hunting cabin near Augusta.
I had planned on joining them again on this annual get-together, but family matters kept me home this year. Friend Mike will be stalking a big buck that shares property he owns in southern Portage County. No. 2 son and I have several nice bucks active on our land along the creek. But he said, “If a nice big doe should come by, I’m more interested in filling my freezer.”
In our neck of the woods, it appeared that the rut began early this year. A very nice eight-pointer with a 15- to 16-inch inside antler spread was spotted checking numerous scrapes along trails in our woods last month. Scrapes and rubs are two methods bucks communicate with other deer during the fall – and tell-tale signs that the rut has begun.
Bucks use their front hooves to scrape the ground and expose bare earth. There they also urinate and leave hoof marks. Scrapes are often found under low hanging branches and twigs and are marked with scent from glands located on the buck’s forehead.
Rubs are created when bucks use their antlers to strip bark off small diameter sapling trees. Large, mature bucks often take on larger diameter trees, at times up to six to eight inches or larger in diameter. Nothing stirs a scouting hunter’s heart more than the sight of one of these territorial signatures left by a huge buck.
The large eight-pointer was captured on camera by No. 2 son’s good friend Sam. “Broadside at about 15 yards by his scrape, but I had already filled my buck tag near Polonia where my family has land.” Later that day he filled a doe tag on our property.
We engaged a trail camera on a fencepost near my gun deer stand. Over the past month, it has captured several bucks, one a huge 10-pointer. In addition, it has produced digital pictures of numerous does and coyotes. All passed by during the dark of night, the 10-pointer at 9 p.m. Now that the rut is in full swing, one never knows when they will appear. Bucks are working full-time – morning, afternoon and night – looking for females in “season.”
So beginning last week, No. 2 son and I have been laying in ambush, waiting for a chance to add venison to our freezer. A good past-time indeed while waiting for the big hunt later this month. And in the meantime, there’s a grouse and pheasant hunt or two planned, a new deer rifle to sight in, and gear to organize.
But those are stories for upcoming columns.