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The Rut Report


Deer gun season opens Saturday. Here is the current rut report from across the state as provided by biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Central Region

Report submitted by Jeff Pennington, central region wildlife supervisor

Current rutting activity: The rut typically peaks between November 10-20 in the central region, and it appears to be holding true for 2013. Buck activity has picked up significantly since the first of November.  Bucks have been seen out in open areas during the middle of the day. There has also been a large increase in the number of road-killed bucks in the region. All of these items are signs of the rut picking up in the region.

Habitat Conditions: Welcome rainfall returned to the drought stricken central region in 2013. Most of the region received high amounts of rain during July and August, the two months that are typically the most stressful for Oklahoma deer. This high amount of summer rainfall produced a tremendous growth of summer deer foods. Most central region deer went into the fall period in good condition. Production is spotty, but most areas have good to excellent quantities of acorns and other mast producing crops such as persimmons and buck brush. Deer will prefer the acorns over food plots or deer feeders, which were successful tactics the past two years because of drought stressed deer and the low quantity of mast crops. Wheat has done well this year, and will be a locally important food source, particularly in the north-central portions of the region.

Reports from hunters: The amount of buck activity seen by bowhunters across the region increased significantly the first week of November. Most seasoned bowhunters think that the rut will be just past peak on opening day of gun season. Some breeding has been observed by hunters.

Notes on open Wildlife Management Areas in the region and tips for hunting public land: Check the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for specific regulations, as some WMAs are only open for nine days and some have restrictions on antlerless harvest. The central region has many locations to choose from for public deer hunting opportunities during the deer gun season. In south central Oklahoma, hunters can try their luck at Hickory Creek, Love Valley, Washita Arm, Tishomingo, and Fobb Bottom WMAs, all located on the upper ends of Lake Texoma. In addition, portions of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Murray County are open to gun hunting (check the with the National Park Service at (580) 622-3161 if you are not familiar with which areas are open for firearms hunting). Hunters in the north-central region can choose from Kaw WMA, which is consistently one of the top producers in the state, or Keystone, Heyburn, Skiatook, and John Dahl WMAs. The PHA portion of Okmulgee WMA also is open for gun hunters. Keys to success on public lands are similar to deer hunting everywhere: hunters that scout before the season and spend the most hours being patient on stand are the ones with the best success. One other tip is to stay put on opening morning, even if you see activity from other hunters. Often this activity from other hunters will push deer to those that remain on stand.

Three best tips for deer hunting in the region: 

1. Spend time in the woods scouting before season to locate food sources, scrapes, funnels and travel patterns.

2. Stay on stand! Spend as much time as possible on stand, especially if air temperatures are at or below normal. Late morning and even mid-day produces well for those that stick it out.

3. Resist the temptation to move around. This is especially important for those with limited hunting areas. Get to your stand and make a commitment to staying there for the hunt.

Three biggest mistakes made by deer hunters in region: 

1. Underestimating a deer’s nose: always consider wind direction and make efforts to reduce human and human related scent while hunting.

2. Going to the woods without scouting.

3. Getting up and moving around versus taking a stand location: moving around spreads human scent throughout the woods. Unless you have a great deal of acreage to hunt on, have several stand locations selected before season, and pick one for that morning or evening hunt.

Opening morning expectations: Hunter activity will be heavy on opening weekend. If the cool weather holds through the weekend, bucks should be very active. Hunters should stay in the stands most of the day if possible. Let other hunters’ mid-day activity to and from stand locations work to your advantage. Be sure to select stand sites based on wind direction: do not underestimate a deer’s nose.

Northwest Region

Report submitted by Eddie Wilson, northwest region wildlife biologist stationed at Cooper and Fort Supply WMAs.

Current rutting activity: Deer activity to date has been slow in the northwest. Hunters are reporting very few scrapes, and are still seeing bucks traveling in groups. With the cooler temperatures we are experiencing this week, things are sure to change. Rut activity will likely start picking up in the next few days and should be in full swing by opening weekend of rifle season.

Habitat Conditions: Summer rains and moderate temperatures provided for good forage and water availability throughout the northwest this year, thus leading to good fawn recruitment. Native food sources have been abundant this fall, and most likely have contributed to the lack of deer movement. Overall deer numbers, however, are lower than normal due to severe drought conditions during the previous three years.

Reports from hunters: Bowhunters are just now starting to see some buck activity. Overall deer movement has increased in the past few days, with reports of young bucks trailing does are on the increase. The rut typically kicks off between Nov. 15 and 20 in the northwest. Things seem to be on schedule, so rut activity should peak somewhere close to opening weekend.

Notes on open Wildlife Management Areas in the region and tips for hunting public land: Area Biologists all agree that deer numbers are down on northwest WMAs, with the 2 1/2 year old age class of deer being the most severely affected. A recent killing freeze should decrease the native food sources available, and deer will be moving to winter food plots on the WMAs. Winter food plots are in fair to good condition throughout the northwest, and will provide hunters a good area to focus their efforts. Food plots will be attracting does, and the bucks shouldn’t be far behind. Prior to hunting northwest WMAs, hunters need to be sure and check season dates and antlerless restrictions specific to the WMA they intend to hunt. For full details regarding hunting on both public and private land, consult this years “Oklahoma Hunting Guide”, or check online at before heading afield.

Three best tips for deer hunting in the region: 

1. Do your pre-scouting and locate food sources. Once you know where the deer are traveling to eat, locate the best trails and scrapes. Know where you want to be opening morning.

2. Get to know deer movements and patterns. Spend some time in the woods prior to season. If you like to bow hunt, now is the time to be in a stand. Come opening morning of gun season, you will know what to expect regarding deer activity.

3. Hunt as long as possible, all day if you can. If temperatures remain cool, bucks will be active throughout the entire day.

Three biggest mistakes made by deer hunters in region: 

1. Not doing your pre-scouting. Walking into a new area not knowing what to expect on opening morning rarely leads to success.

2. Leaving your hunt area too soon. Pick a spot and stay there as long as possible. Other hunters may choose to leave early and move deer to you. Be patient.

3. Not being prepared for weather conditions. Be ready for cold temperatures. While daytime temperatures may be comfortable, many hunters are not prepared for morning low temperatures. This leads to getting cold, and leaving the stand too early.

Opening morning Expectation: Expect hunter activity to be heavy opening weekend. Be sure to know the regulations pertaining to northwest region WMAs. Some WMAs have controlled hunts, and some are closed during the entire deer gun season. Hunters should get into the field early and be prepared to stay late. Rut activity should be good opening weekend. If temperatures remain cool, bucks will most likely move throughout the day. Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Make sure to keep your orange hat and vest visible at all times, as hunters often cover them up with hoods or backpacks. Hunt Safe!

Southwest Region

Report submitted by Ron Smith, southwest region senior biologist stationed at Altus-Lugert and Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Areas

Current rutting activity: Deer are moving into early rutting behavior throughout the region. Bachelor groups of bucks have dispersed and younger bucks are trailing does. Numerous reports of mature bucks with does were observed during daylight hours during the Veteran’s Day holiday.  General deer movement has increased, which may be due in part to fall vegetation transition and increased rutting activity. Much of the region has experienced significant frost and deer are increasing their movement to forage. Reduced fawn survival during the drought years has led to lower observed numbers of 1 to 3 year old bucks. Younger age class bucks generally still dominate the number seen.

Habitat conditions: Habitat conditions have improved over most of the southwest region. All but the extreme western counties have experienced more rainfall than the previous two years. Range condition and general cover may still be depleted, though rainfall and reduced livestock grazing have allowed some improvement. Fall crops are in good condition. Recent rainfall has given the winter wheat crop solid growth.

Reports from hunters: To date, hunters have reported generally slow activity but most are just seeing the beginning signs of the rut. Hunters have reported young bucks trailing does but have not witnessed any receptive does. Rubs and scrapes are becoming more active. Archery hunters are eager to see what the next couple of weeks bring. Most feel that early gun season will see a rapid increase in rut activity.

Notes on open Wildlife Management Areas in the region and tips for hunting public land:

Black Kettle WMA – Open the first nine days only. Take time to learn the units. It’s a vast area with many unique features.

Ft. Cobb WMA – Open the first nine days only. Patience is key. Hunter numbers may be high but so are deer numbers.

Ellis County WMA – Open the first nine days only. Closed to antlerless hunting. Plan carefully to enter and hunt with favorable wind.

Packsaddle WMA – Open the first nine days only. Closed to antlerless hunting. Oilfield traffic may seem obtrusive but deer are used to the activity.

Altus Lugert WMA – Open the first nine days only. Closed to antlerless hunting. Shotguns with slugs only.

Gist WMA – Archery only. Limited area requires slow approach to avoid deer disturbance and other hunters.

Hackberry Flat WMA – Archery only. Woody cover is limited. Approach and movement must be cautious.

Mountain Park WMA – Archery only. Use mesquite cover to move in and make use of travel routes to food.

Sandy Sanders WMA – Archery only. Use high mesas from which to spot and stalk.

Washita County WMA – Archery only. Limited area with one woody creek. Use cautious approach.

Waurika WMA – Archery only. Dense cover in Beaver creek area thinning to mixed cover around the perimeter. Use cover to your advantage.

Three best tips for deer hunting in the region:

1.Scout as much as possible. Identify useful areas of food, cover, water and travel routes.

2. Hunt where does are. As rut activity increases, bucks will be sure to follow.

3. Be patient. Be prepared to spend the day. Rut activity can lengthen activity throughout the day.

Three biggest mistakes made by deer hunters in the region:

1. Failing to put time into scouting.

2. Leaving the field too early.

3. Not paying close attention to wind.

Opening morning expectations: Hunters can expect rut activity to be strong on opening morning. It is expected that the peak of rutting behavior is taking place the week prior to the opening of deer gun season. Plan to be in the field all day. Cooler temperatures will also bring about extended activity. Enjoy the freedoms that we have to pursue our passion.

Northeast Region

Submitted by Brent Morgan, northeast region wildlife biologist stationed at Cherokee, Camp Gruber and Tenkiller WMAs; and Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor

Current rutting activity: We are in the beginning phase of rutting activity. Buck activity was slim to none during muzzleloader season, but some bucks were spotted with does at the end of muzzleloader season.   Rutting activity picks up tremendously with the approach of a full moon. This should help keep the rut filing towards its peak and should also help get deer out and about. Cooler weather does seem to get the deer more active during the day, so stick it out when the temperatures start dropping.

Habitat conditions: Overall, acorn production was really good with the white oaks and post oaks making the majority with some sporadic red oaks.  With all the rain during the summer the persimmons have really put on the fruit.  Some persimmons have started to fall but the majority is still on the tree.  The deer also have an abundance of browse where previous controlled burns were conducted. With the habitat looking so favorable throughout the region, deer will not have to travel as far to find available food and water.

Reports from hunters: Deer movement in general has been reported as slow in the mornings and picking up between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a lot of nocturnal activity. Bucks have been spotted checking out scrapes during the middle of the day. Deer have been using food plots late in the evening and the acorns and browse during mid-day.

Notes on open Wildlife Management Areas in the region and tips for hunting public land: If you plan on hunting a wildlife management area, make sure and read up on the special regulations for that particular area in the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”  All WMAs are not alike, and season dates and regulations may vary from statewide season details. WMA’s will have more activity than private land, so be cautious and aware of the area you will be hunting because more than likely you are sharing with fellow sportsmen. Scouting will be the best advice to give to hunters on opening weekend of gun season.

Three best tips for deer hunting in the region

1. Hunters need to scout the areas they hunt for buck rubs and scrapes, as they will be checking them regularly especially when it nears the peak of the rut.

2. Scout for food sources around or near buck sign, as this will be your best shot at locating a buck.

3. If hunters are persistent and have done their scouting homework, there is no reason they shouldn’t harvest that nice buck. A set of rattling horns and a grunt tube should be just as important as the method you are hunting with. The snort-wheeze call is also very effective when trying to lure that buck even closer for a clean shot. Deer don’t always respond to calls but they often do.

Three biggest mistakes made by deer hunters in the region:

1. Not getting out and doing enough scouting. The scouting can make the difference in success and not. the more familiar you are with the patch of ground you are hunting – whether field or woods – the better chance you have of intercepting a deer.

2. Not staying out long enough. Deer move during the day. Afternoon and evening can be really good, too.  You can’t get them if you are not there.

3. Not being mindful of the wind. This goes along with scouting. If you know the travel routes that deer use on their way to bedding or to a food source, you can locate yourself downwind of those areas you expect them to travel to.

Opening morning expectation: Expect other hunter activity, but don’t let that discourage you because those other hunters may be moving deer around that you wouldn’t normally see. Lots of activity in an area can put deer on the move.

Southeast Region

Report submitted by Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor

Current rutting activity: The rut is picking up in the SE region now. Bucks have been chasing does hard. Gun season hunters should plan to be on stand on opening weekend, as there is a good chance the rut will be peaking about that time based on activity observed so far. The rut is the only thing making the deer move because the food source is so good – acorns and persimmons. Four of the top 10 Cy Curtis bucks were taken from the southeast region, including the top two bucks.

Habitat Conditions: Thanks to better rainfall this year, habitat conditions are good. Lots of acorns and persimmons, foliage is very dense, so scouting for an open area is a must.

Reports from hunters: Archery and muzzleloader hunters are reporting typical early rutting activity. Hunters reporting lots of acorns, so deer don’t have to move much, the rut is helping with deer movement.

Notes on open Wildlife Management Areas in the region and tips for hunting public land: The Ouachita, Three Rivers and Honobia Creek WMAs offer the largest public hunting areas in the state at about a half million acres combined, and there are numerous others as well. But scouting is a must on these large areas. Hunters should stay in stands as long as possible in case other hunters flush deer. Remember to check the regulations booklets for other species that are open to hunting on these WMAs.

Three best tips for deer hunting in the region:

1. Scout out your hunt area.

2. Find a food source.

3. Stay put.

Three biggest mistakes made by deer hunters in the region:

1. Being unfamiliar with the area.

2. Not staying in the stand long enough. The best time may be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

3. To much activity in the area.

Opening morning expectations: The forests in the southeast are still very dense with foliage, so try to find an open area with acorns and stay put. Hunter activity will be heavy on opening weekend and throughout the week. If the cool weather holds through the weekend, bucks should be very active. Hunters should stay in the stands most of the day if possible.

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Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›