Overall activity status: Generally cool weather has kept deer on their feet across much of the region, though some hunters report a lack of mature buck sightings during daylight. Rain fell across Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin over the weekend. Hunters who went afield in the aftermath of the rain saw, and shot, some nice bucks.
Fighting: Though outright brawls have been fairly rare, a Wisconsin hunter shot a big buck that had locked antlers with another mature deer. The buck the hunter killed was still quite strong, the buck on the losing end of the battle was dead, apparently from a broken neck. After tagging his buck, the hunter received a salvage tag from a warden for the other deer so he could mount both trophies.
Rub Making: Rubs are popping up with greater frequency, especially near food sources and in nearby staging areas.
Scrape making: Recent scouting sessions have revealed an uptick in scrapes. One of my favorite tactics for identifying the number and quality of bucks in an area is to create a mock scrape in an area where I’ve found a real scrape, then hang a camera over my creation. I used this tactic to capture the trail camera shot above. In addition to this pretty buck, my camera—which I’ll leave at this site for at least 10 days—captured three other bucks. Can you say “Roll call!” ?
Daytime movement: Though many mature bucks are moving in the last ticks of daylight—or waiting til dead-dark—there are still enough bucks walking during shooting hours to make hunting worthwhile. Iowa outfitter Ted Marum reports giving a client in his Iowa camp a choice to hunt two stands. The client picked Stand A and saw does and some small bucks. Meanwhile, a camera near Stand B snapped a photo of a giant buck walking into a field 30 minutes before dusk!
Estrous signs: Northern Wisconsin bowhunter Tom VanDoorn called to say that a neighbor had watched a pair of immature bucks chasing a doe across a field in full daylight. One of the bucks had his nose to the ground, clearly following the doe’s scent trail. This is a classic example of a doe that’s come into estrous a month earlier than peak rut.
X-Factor: From most reports, the acorn crop across the region has been spotty, likely due to the drought. Because the crop has been small, expect whitetails to have it eaten up soon, and looking for other groceries. Focus on recently-harvested crop fields and green food sources like alfalfa, winter wheat and food plots.