Confessions of the Rut Deprived

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I suppose I shouldn't have read Brantley's gloating blog about his latest success. I was irritable enough as it is.

I'm sitting here trying to work through a day's worth of tasks in the two hours I'll be able to keep my eyes open until yet another 4 a.m. wakeup call arrives. It's early November and the bow season is slipping away. I've scarcely hunted, and I'm trying to make up for lost time.

I try to do everything right. Living in a state with a million deer hunters, you can't afford to be too sloppy if you're looking to tag a buck that's lived past its second set of antlers. We do, after all, kill more than 80 percent of our yearling bucks each season. So yeah, finding a deer with some age on it isn't easy.

I get out early. I stay all day when I can (which this year has been very, very unlikely). I watch the wind. I do everything I can to get in and out of the stand without running off deer.

And Brantley hops out of his truck, tosses his bow over his shoulder and saunters into a stand where he plugs a good buck in a matter of minutes. And to calm his nerves  prior to the shot, he cusses. Well, friend, I have a few words on my mind right now that you can add to your next buck encounter vocabulary . . .

But here's the point (besides giving Brantley some well-deserved crap): the rut can be both incredibly exciting and incredibly frustrating. Right now, it's the latter.

A week ago, I sat a stand on a cold Saturday morning and watched two good bucks doing things that will get them killed: Moving in broad daylight as they searched for does. A number of younger bucks also joined the melee, and it was easily one of the best mornings I've had here.

Today? The weather was cold, the ground covered in a layer of glistening frost. And not a damn thing was out enjoying it. I saw one small buck and it was wandering around with a harem of does and fawns that seemed far more interested in munching on fallen maple leaves than procreating. Seriously? It's November 6. A day that, according to Field and Stream's Rut issue, would be the mother of all hunting days.

What it was instead was a colossal flop. There was no visible rutting behavior to speak of. In fact, besides last weekend's unexpected outburst, there has been minimal rut buildup that I can see. Scrapes have popped up, but not many. Rubbing activity doesn't seem to be anything to get excited about either.

The local corner store holds a buck contest each year. It's always a good indicator of the rut's progression. When bucks start showing up on the photo wall, the rut is starting to kick. There has been one buck added in the last three weeks.

Part of me hopes the rut won't kick hard for another week. I've (finally) drawn an Iowa bow tag and leave this weekend. I'd really like to be sitting on a hardwood ridge in Iowa as the rut fires on all cylinders. At the same time, my best option of taking a good buck here at home hinges on rutting activity. Without it, older deer simply won't move in daylight.

Tomorrow, as they say, is another day. I'll get up early and try to steal a few hours in the stand before work will call me back to the office.

Fortunately, Brantley lives in Kentucky, which is a one-buck state. So he won't be able to roll out of bed at noon, walk out the back door and stick a Booner . . .