Overall activity status: I spent Monday afternoon scouting a few local cornfields here in western Nebraska and saw several deer out feeding well before sundown. That confirms the pattern that all my contacts across the region are seeing as well, though rut-related activity is still on the down low. A few signs are starting to pop up, including a few chasing and cruising bucks, that say we're on the verge of peak breeding season in the next week to 10 days.
Fighting: Somewhat surprisingly, few of my contacts have seen any bucks fighting lately and no broken tines are showing up on camera. That lack of battles could be a result of the reduced deer density this year, though up in South Dakota Spencer Neuharth did say bucks there are "getting more aggressive and it's become more than just tickling of antlers."
Rub/Scrape Making: Neuharth also says things are heating up there with rub and scrapes "aplenty."
Daytime movement: In south-central Kansas Clete Frazell pulled his camera's data cards last weekend and says he had bucks showing their faces during the daylight hours. "Nothing big, but there was one 22ish-inch wide old 8-point with split brows that is coming in regularly," said Frazell. "Probably 140, but I am holding out until I get some opportunities from the rut."
Estrous signs: Does and fawns are still together, but I've seen smaller bucks starting to dog does and several of my contacts have mentioned seeing the same in the past week.
X Factor: My scouting trip earlier in the week was timed to take advantage of much of the corn that is coming out around here. All the high-moisture corn is about put up, but farmers are waiting for irrigated corn to dry a bit before going full-out with harvest. As Neuharth put it in an e-mail earlier this week, "these types of trips are essential now that harvest is nearly over." Bucks that had been previously hidden in standing corn are getting evicted and it's a great time to spot a trophy buck that you might not have known existed. In southeast Kansas, my anonymous source there says the corn is 90-95 percent out with some late-season corn still standing that might not get cut until November. "This is a haven for the whitetails that live next to it," he said. "Will make for tough hunting for those SOBs." He also said beans are being cut now and are maybe 50 percent out and the wheat is already up.