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A hefty whitetail buck checks a scrape and uses its mouth to leave scent on balsam fir boughs just above the scrape. Bucks paw at the ground, scraping it clear in a small area, and leave scent there to let does in the area know the bucks are available for breeding. This fall, Minnesota's firearms deer season more closely coincides with the peak of the mating season -- called the rut -- than in most other years. Steve Fiske of Cloquet made the photograph in early November last year with a remotely placed ...

Later-than-usual season puts Minnesota deer hunters right on the rut

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Good news, Minnesota firearms hunters: This fall, Minnesota's firearms deer season opens this Saturday, Nov. 8, as late as it can in the calendar year. And that means it's more likely to coincide with the peak of the rut.

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Every deer hunter knows buck sign. A circle on the forest floor pawed down to bare ground. Bark freshly peeled from the lower reaches of a sapling.

When a hunter sees that, he or she knows a buck has come calling. That buck is telling any does in the area, "Hey, baby. I'm ready when you are. Stop by any time."

It tells the hunter that bucks are "in the rut," in other words, ready to mate.

Good news, Minnesota firearms hunters: This fall, Minnesota's firearms deer season opens this Saturday, Nov. 8, as late as it can in the calendar year. And that means it's more likely to coincide with the peak of the rut.

"The researchers tell us the peak is around Nov. 11 or 12," said Rich Staffon, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager in Cloquet. "This year, opening weekend is right before the prime time. I would think unless we have some bizarre weather, that should create conditions that would relate to better-than-normal hunting."

This comes as no surprise to deer hunters.

"I think it's a pretty big deal. Everyone talks about it," said Rob Parrott of The Bear's Den in Twig, Minn. "I think we're going to hit the rut right on the head for the opener."

John Chalstrom of Chalstrom's Bait and Tackle also knows what the rut means to hunters.

"Hunters are going to go out for the opener no matter when the state puts it," he said, "but when the opener falls on top of the peak of the rut, boy, it makes a huge difference in success."

Bucks are ready to mate any time from early October through late December, Staffon said. It's the does that decide when to mate. During the rut, does remain in roughly the same area where they've been all year, but bucks begin traveling farther, Staffon said.

"They tend to lose a little of their cautiousness when they're in the rut," Chalstrom said. "It makes for a lot more bucks following does and a lot more of them getting shot on opening day."

The ideal situation for a hunter occurs when two or three dominant bucks are working the same territory.

"If you have two or three big bucks competing for does," Staffon said, "you'll have a lot more sign."

More scrapes.

More rubs.

More hints for hunters about where to place their stands.

"My forecast for the rifle opener is that it's going to be pretty spectacular this year," Chalstrom said.

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