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Whitetail rut

Gerald Messick shot this whitetail buck during the rut in November 2012. A little snow and cold makes deer hunting much better.

For several reasons my favorite month to hunt deer is November. Number one is probably the weather. November usually brings at least one cold arctic outbreak that transforms the landscape from autumn to winter in one fell swoop.

It seems that October hunting on the plains around Sheridan is generally done under fairly mild conditions. What do you do with a deer that has been harvested on a 70-degree day with the lows only getting down into the 40s? I am not blessed with a walk-in cooler, nor do I have a friend who has one. I prefer to butcher my deer, so taking a deer to a processor is out of the question.

Along with worries about properly aging the carcass, (I like to age a deer at least three days), comes concerns about flies. It seems that those darned blue-bottle flies can detect a deer carcass from a mile away. I might not see a darned fly until I hoist the carcass up and start to skin it. If the weather is halfway warm, the flies will be there in a flash. I know that I can wrap the carcass in a porous fabric, but those flies have an amazing ability to find a way to the meat.

November usually brings snowstorms. I can spot deer a lot better if there is snow on the ground. I can also track them a heck of a lot easier with snow. I know we all hope for a clean, quick kill, but there are times when our quarry doesn't die on the spot and runs off. It is so agonizing to try to locate a blood trail on dry vegetation; though it can be done it is a time-consuming process. Usually a blood trail on fresh snow makes for a fairly quick tracking job and successful retrieval of the animal.

Another plus about November white-tailed deer hunting in the Sheridan area is that there are fairly liberal regulations. There are several areas that have additional doe/fawn licenses in November. In hunt Area 24 there is an unlimited quota of doe/fawn white-tailed deer licenses. Actually, the type 8 licenses for Area 24 are valid from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15.

Though most of Area 24 is private land, many landowners will allow doe/fawn hunters access to their lands at no charge or very little charge.

While there isn't a lot of meat on a white-tailed doe, if you bag three or so you have a pretty darned good supply of meat for the winter and spring. I usually try to bag three does a year, and I have a lot of the meat ground into burger and sausage while I save the choice cuts — backstraps and rounds — for most of my cooking needs.

Though I rely on the does for my meat supply, I still like to bag a buck white-tailed deer if at all possible. Buck whitetails can be tough to come by most of the hunting season until the rut sets in. Once wily bucks seem to get stupid or nearly so. They start roaming about the countryside at all hours of the day trying to detect any doe in estrous.

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Incidentally, I have found that some landowners will let me shoot a buck if I am willing to shoot two or three does or fawns in return.

During the rut, bucks will trail does so I know that if a doe wanders through where I am at stand, there is a good chance that there will be a buck close behind. While I do like to still hunt, I have found that during the rut it is best to locate a game trail and sit tight. If I can set up before full daylight I am fairly well assured that I will see deer in the first couple of hours.

The weather forecast for the week is calling for a chance of snow showers about every day with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s. It looks like November is shaping up to be the month to get out and hunt, if not white-tailed deer, then try pheasants, ducks, geese or turkeys. Enjoy the cold, snowy weather with the promise of more to come.

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