The Northwest Rut Has Arrived as Hunting Seasons End

Image by Tom Tietz

The odds of filling a tag in the final days of season are good this holiday week

I’ve heard more than a few hunters comment, “the rut is running late this year,” especially when referring to the Northwest’s population of whitetails. Despite mountains of data proving the rut in the Northwest should arrive at roughly the same time annually, based on the length of day and not the weather, many hunters are adamant that Northwest whitetails are getting a late start this year. It sure feels that way. During mid-November, you expect to see rutting behaviors and hope to catch a big buck making a mistake because he’s off his usual game. But that hasn’t been the case, until recently. 

Perhaps it was the sequence of several nasty storms that kept many hunters home during the first weeks of November. If you’re not in the field, after all, you can’t witness deer behavior. These frigid, windy storms also kept deer movement at a minimum. Even between storms, the deer I encountered weren’t exhibiting much rutting behavior. I spotted bucks hanging out together and feeding casually with does up until just a few days ago. 

As we move into the week of Thanksgiving, I’m finally starting to hear numerous reports of behaviors like fighting, chasing, and seeking. Most hunters across the Northwest are seeing some type of rut behavior. It’s like the rut went from nothing to action everywhere. Unfortunately, the rut is heating up just as most hunting seasons are about to go cold. However, this major spike in activity gave many hunters the edge they needed to punch their tags in the final days of the season.  

The rut arrived too late for most hunters in Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming. In Washington, late-season whitetail hunting ended in many game management units on Nov. 19, 2022. Hunters who ventured into the field for the final days of the season reported seeing swollen necks, mid-day movement, and bucks hot on the heels of does.  

Montana gives hunters the best shot in the Northwest at chasing bucks peak-rut. The general season lasts through the weekend following Thanksgiving. In recent days, I’ve started to see whitetail bucks, especially younger ones, moving during all hours of the day. 

This increased behavior bodes well for hunters who are still out there. Montanan Erin Hill filled her deer tag in the final days of the season. She spotted a buck on the move with just minutes 15 of shooting light left. She quickly moved into position and managed to connect. Hill attributes her success due to the buck being “100% hot from the rut.” 

If you still have a tag to fill, you likely don’t have much time left. And you’ll want to get out before the bucks head into the lockdown phase. Without major storms in the forecast, a holiday weekend off of work and bucks in the rut, it’s a good week to go hunting.

(Don't Miss: 5 Factors for Rut Hunting Success)

Day Activity

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Rubbing

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Scraping

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Fighting

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Seeking

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Chasing

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Breeding

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