Rut Report Nov. 15: Can You Spot The Buck?

Day No. 15 of a Midwest whitetail rut hunt is in the books. Discover what North American Hunter Senior Managing Editor Dave Maas learned during his day in South Dakota.

Can’t find the buck in the photo above? Me neither. And that’s because the photo is void of deer.

I had high hopes for this afternoon (November 14) because I was able to finally hike to the primary food source, a 4-acre standing cornfield with two strips of brassicas planted on its borders. But I knew things weren’t going according to plan when, at noon, there were already 20-plus deer in the corn (stalks are only thigh high due to poor growing conditions) and, of course, the deer spooked when I approached the field.

I walked the cornfield edge to quickly determine which trails from the river-bottom were being used the most, then I set up downwind of one trail that was far enough from the field so as to not spook feeding deer at dark when I departed. Unfortunately, the only deer I spotted while sitting were a half-mile to the east (heading to a farmer’s alfalfa field) or running through my shooting lane (small bucks chasing does).

During my scouting mission, I spotted three mature bucks around the cornfield, and each one was tending a doe-in-heat. One had ushered/directed his doe 200 yards from the corn and was keeping her on a stock dam hill in the middle of the prairie. It’s common for mature bucks to isolate a doe-in-heat this way during the rut; he doesn’t have to bother with fending off other bucks. While such tending bucks are stalkable with a rifle (not too difficult actually), they’re nearly impossible to target with a bow.

It was only 1 degree when I left my make-shift snow cave/blind at dark, and after 3.5 hours of sitting motionless (no Heater Body Suit this afternoon), I was so cold my toes and fingers were really starting to sting. I doubt if I could have made a decent shot at a mature buck even if one had stepped through my shooting lane.

My wife is on her way from Minnesota to join me for the weekend bowhunt, and we’ll both be wearing our Heater Body Suits tomorrow morning. That way, we can sit for at least 4 hours and stay comfortable on stand. Assuming the deer leave the corn at daybreak and head into the river-bottom, we’ll be in position to intercept them. If the deer don’t leave the corn on their own, I might have to do a push to force them into the bottom because time is running out on this rut vacation/hunt.