The mere idea of mid-October breeding action in the upper Midwest is hard for some hunters to comprehend. After all, for many years we’ve been conditioned to believe that breeding activity fits nicely into a neat little10- to 14-day window in November. This article will challenge that notion.
I’m thoroughly convinced that October’s mini-rut is real. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s dangerous at best for hunters to come to firm conclusions on whitetail behaviors based on a handful of experiences we have in the deer woods.
Still, we are also short-sighted to ignore them. However, in my 32 years of bow-hunting, I’ve duped a number of rut-crazed bucks in mid-October.
In each case, it was a mature doe, looking to be in peak health that appeared to be actively seeking a dominant buck. Another commonality was that I witnessed was deer urinating in either an existing scrape or in the depression of a primary scrape that had yet to be opened that year.
Each displayed the body language of being at or near estrus. Ironically, outside of this mini-rut period, I’ve only witnessed does urinating in scrapes three other times. One of those does was obviously in estrus; the others didn’t appear to be.
Through first- and second-hand encounters, working as a consultant for outfitters exposes me to the experiences of many of their hunters. Every outfitter I’ve spoken to on this subject has had experiences similar to mine. By adding them into the mix, I can weigh the experiences of literally thousands of hunters.
That becomes a sampling that can be taken seriously.
Mature bucks are finely tuned breeding machines. Their past experiences clue them into available action. This spurt puts them on the alert that breeding opportunities are out there … if they can be in the right place at the right time. That is something hunters can take advantage of if they’re on their toes.
Over the years, I have discussed the whitetail’s early breeding behavior tendencies with top biologists like John Ozoga and Dr. Karl Miller. Their general consensus is that a few prime does do enter estrus early each year.
Adding that information to the experiences of thousands of hunters makes me a firm believer in October’s mini-rut. Although that knowledge alone won’t skyrocket hunting success rates, it just might provide you the confidence needed to lure that truly dominant buck into bow range this fall.
Pull that off, and you’ll be a believer, too.
Steve Bartylla is an accomplished whitetail hunter and veteran outdoor writer from Wisconsin. For a comprehensive guide to cutting edge stand hunting methods, check out Steve Bartylla’s book: Advanced Stand Hunting Strategies. A personally autographed copy can be yours for $22.50, tax and shipping included. Steve’s new book — Bowhunting Tactics That Deliver Trophies — serves as an excellent compliment and delves deeply into the critical details that must be addressed to consistently arrow the big boys. An autographed copy of this hardcover sells for $30. For either or both ($50 when ordered together), send a check or money order to the following: Steve Bartylla 1406 St. Joseph Ave., Marshfield, WI 54449 Be sure to include your name and the shipping address.
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