Rut Report Nov. 17: Tag Soup (For Now)

Day No. 17 of a Midwest whitetail rut hunt is in the books. Discover what North American Hunter Senior Managing Editor Dave Maas learned during his final day of vacation in South Dakota.

Today, November 16, the curtain closed on my 2014 whitetail rut hunt. And unfortunately, deer movement during my morning hunt was minimal. My wife saw about a dozen deer, including a few small bucks hanging out with does, but I spotted only a doe and fawn while sitting in my ground blind ambush spot near a well-used river crossing (bridge). I placed my Dave Smith Decoy (DSD) in front of me for some added attraction, but there weren’t any big bucks on the move in my area. See the wood pile in the background of the photo above? That’s my hideout; it’s a sweet spot.

Conditions today were brutal: the air temp was minus 5 degrees at sunrise, with west winds blowing near 40 mph. Because our family had to head back to Minnesota this afternoon, and we didn’t want to drive on bad roads after dark, we hunted until only 10 a.m. And frankly, this was OK with me because I was frozen to the bone after 3 hours sitting in the wood-pile blind. My wife carried her Heater Body Suit to the treestand, so she stayed far more comfortable. As you can see in the photo below, she dresses plenty warm even though she climbs into the Suit after reaching her stand.

So what did I learn during my 17 straight days in the woods of Wisconsin and South Dakota in pursuit of rutting whitetails? If you’ve followed this Rut Report daily, you know I witnessed moments of intense deer activity, as well as long periods of little to no deer movement. But that’s nothing new, and it certainly didn’t surprise me. After all, this isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve been hunting whitetails for nearly 40 years. But that said, I’m still amazed when during those magical moments, like yesterday (November 15), when mature bucks are seemingly everywhere. And yet a day later (today), they disappear like smoke.

While this Rut Report has come to an end, the whitetail rut is still alive and well in much of the Midwest, and I hope you have the chance to get out pursuing rutting bucks during the remainder of November. I’ll be accompanying a few youth hunters next weekend in Wisconsin during the state’s firearms deer season opener, and if we have success I’ll be sure to post a story here on

I’ll end my Rut Report 2014 with a quote from one of my favorite deer hunters, Gene Wensel, author of the classic book, “Hunting Rutting Whitetails.” He wrote: “Blood is not dirty; it needs no apology.”

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