I was sure I had missed the whitetail rut here in northeast Montana. Normally Nov. 9-14 is prime time in the Milk River, but I spent most of this month chasing elk around the mountains. I returned home hoping to scratch out a post-rut buck, but imagine my surprise to see bucks in full-on chase mode!
We had a long, warm fall, and I suspect that pushed back the rut this month. But a winter storm blew in last Friday, and by Sunday evening temperatures were headed into sub-zero territory.
I’m seeing bucks chasing like it’s early November. A few does are standing for the attention of the boys, but most are running away like they’re being stalked by predators.
Check out the swollen neck on this stud, getting a snoot full of estrus urine. At the time I snapped this photo the mercury was standing at -15 degrees.
The field where I hunt is full of these scenes, mature bucks bird-dogging does. The weather is so crackling cold that the does are hitting the alfalfa fields even at mid-day, and they’re bringing the bucks with them. It doesn’t get much better than this for a late-season whitetail hunter.
My problem is, I am seeing at least a half-dozen bucks of this size class, good 3-year-olds with 120- to 130-inch racks. But I’m holding out for bucks at least a year older and with a few more inches of antler. Am I being too picky?
My hope is that this concentration of cycling does will eventually bring out the big boys. Montana’s rifle deer season ends Sunday.
This buck is plenty interested, and relatively oblivious to my presence, hunkered down in the snow on the edge of the field.
This buck spots something suspicious in the grass.
The November full moon rises above the Milk River.
And this buck fades off in pursuit of another doe to chase. I’m curious what the winter weather is doing with the rut in your part of the country. Chime in. We can all benefit from hearing that the magic hour is extended a week or two this year.

Think you’ve missed the rut without punching your tag? Think again. At least in the West, the rut hit late and the big bucks are still chasing.