Bow Season: Hidden Rut

This is the fifth part of a 12 part series covering my time spent with a Kansas Whitetail outfitter during his entire bow season.

Disappointment is the burden that most bowhunters carry when time is running out. Paying for a guided hunt and not getting a shot at a nice buck can be very frustrating, but when warm weather seems to shut off the rut completely, frustration is a nice replacement word for disgusted. Is it the outfitter’s fault that this is the warmest rut in 30 years? No, but often times the outfitter gets the blame just like the quarterback of a bad team. 

As the second week of bowhunters watched their hunts fade into bad memories, the warm weather constantly reminded us that we are not in charge of nature. This is supposed to be the peak of the rut, but the only deer moving around are mostly young deer that are displaced from whatever the rutting deer are doing in the shade. Tons of yearlings and young bucks seem to wonder aimlessly waiting for or looking for a place to fit in.

By this point, all that the hunters have seen are bumbling young deer walking around with seemingly no mission or destination. For the big money hunters, this parade of misfits offers no solace in the quest for mature bucks. Concerned for my hunters, and wondering where the rutting deer were, I started scouting around.

One afternoon while walking into a deeply shaded draw, I managed to walk right into a small area where a three year old buck was holed up with a doe in estrus. I was wearing camouflage and to my surprise, the doe ran up and started feeding just six feet away from me. I was so close to her that she did not see or suspect me and the wind was perfect so she couldn’t smell me. I wondered if the buck would come close as well, and I was soon rewarded. He got within 10 feet of me and seemed to look right through me. It was a great moment for me and all the better because I was video-recording the entire episode.

It would seem more impressive if it were a booner I was filming, but nevertheless, it solved my mystery. The rut was occurring, but it was occurring in small shaded places that were cooler in temperature than most other places. I watched that pair for a half hour, and there is no doubt I had discovered the hidden rut. I am convinced that the rut was not widespread, but it was happening.