Overall activity status: Activity is mixed, and it’s largely weather-driven. Cool fall air has swept into the northern reaches of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin and the reports there indicate good deer movement. Where temps have remained warm—Missouri, Illinois, Iowa—bucks are moving in the dim, cool light of early morning and late evening.
Fighting: Some bucks are shedding velvet right now, and when more of that occurs, expect sparring to pick up as bucks give their hard antlers a workout. From the reports I’m getting, about 30 percent of bucks have shed velvet now. I have yet to get a hard-antlered buck on trail cam.
Rub making: Nearly zero, due to the abundance of velvet bucks. This will change dramatically in the next 7-10 days.
Scrape making: Very little to report. However, on a scouting trip to northern Wisconsin, I came upon a traditional scrape site on a sheltered logging road. There were numerous deer tracks in this spot, which remains largely devoid of vegetation. Whitetails can visit scrapes (especially in traditionally used locations) at any time of year.
Chasing: Nothing to report.
Daytime movement: Again, this is largely dictated by weather right now. Rain showers have swept through some places, and deer activity always picks up in their aftermath. When fronts of any kind stall over an area, daytime deer movement seems to plummet.
Estrous signs: None.
X-Factor: The peak of velvet shed will soon be upon us, and this event always shakes up things in the deer world. Some bachelor groups will remain intact for a time, but others will split up as bucks grow less tolerant of each other. If you’re scouting a buck for the opening weeks of bowhunting, now is the time to use some extra effort to keep track of him. Many bucks disperse—even if a short distance—and can be difficult to re-locate; keep glassing fields and running trail cameras to keep tabs on him. And, finally, acorns are starting to fall across the region; one of the surest ways to find a vanishing buck is to identify the nearest oak stand to his summer feeding area. He’ll rarely be far away.