Southwest Rut Report: Big Mule Deer on the Move, Texas Hill Country Getting Good

Rut Report Image: Tom Tietz / Shutterstock

Whether you prefer whitetails or muleys, the action is getting good throughout the Southwest

Last year I located a giant buck on October 24th. I had hunted and scouted the area steadily up to that point, and so I pretty much knew every deer there. But this one had just showed up. He was in a group of does, but didn’t seem too excited yet. We tried to make a hurried play on him but a blizzard fogged us in before we could get across the canyon to him. He gave us the slip that evening.

The next morning, we failed to locate the buck but as fortune would have it, we ran into an even bigger buck traveling by himself. That stalk worked and we hauled a giant off the mountain with us. 

Fast forward to 2020, and I found myself guiding the same area with the same client. Season dates were a few days later, so we had high hopes of catching a little more rut activity and potentially finding the buck that had beaten us the year before. On the second evening I spotted a giant-bodied deer traveling through the trees. I watched him cover nearly a mile and end up in a group of does. He gave me one good look and realized it was the buck from last year. With darkness approaching we gave it our best effort but ran out of time. It was like Déjà vu. The next morning, Halloween, we were back in there and this time he was pushing a doe. A very short stalk put us in position and moments later we were admiring the old monarch and his 31-inch spread. 

For most of us in Colorado, the rut will be in full motion but still on the front half for opening day of third rifle season. Bucks are searching for and pushing does. I’m seeing a lot of rubs and the bucks are starting to fight. Each day will only get better for the next week or two. 

My contacts are saying that northern Utah and Nevada are seeing the same. I have reports of some rutting activity in southern Utah, but it’s a mixed bag. One outfitter said he is seeing good pre-rut action, and expects real activity this week while another said he hasn’t witnessed much for rut yet. I got a report from a reputable hunter in the Kaibab in Arizona a few days ago, and he had no rut at all. I expect northern Arizona will start seeing activity soon but the prime time as usual will be more toward Thanksgiving. The whitetails in northeast New Mexico are starting to scrape and show other signs of early rut. They will most likely keep in tune with the north Texas and southern Colorado whitetails. 

I had a good conversation with my friend Blake Barnett of Trailing the Hunters Moon today. With the Texas general season opening November 7, Blake says the Hill Country hunters should be good to go on the rut. Blake lives in the Hill Country and has been witnessing bucks chasing does and some fighting already. Rattling could be a good tactic this weekend. In north-central Texas, the rut seems to be starting as well, with lots of scrapes and rubs, and cruising bucks showing up on camera at night. With the upcoming cold front, that could be good news for hunters in the north half of Texas. In South Texas, Barnett says he’s starting to see scrapes and rubs, which is a bit earlier than normal. Look for the real rutting to come a little closer to Thanksgiving or even a little after.   

(Don't Miss: Have you Ever Rattled up a Buck with a Climbing Stand?)

Miles Fedinec is a well-recognized big-game authority. He’s been a western hunting guide, specializing in mule deer, elk, and antelope, his entire adult life. When he’s not living in a tent, he calls Craig, Colorado home.  

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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