Overall activity: It's transition time for deer right now; they're still hitting some ag-fields, but with acorns falling across the region, more and more feeding activity is occurring in stands of oak timber. Also, as bachelor groups begin to break up, some bucks that were highly visible all summer will make core-area shifts that can stymie hunters.
Fighting: Still no reports of significant sparring or fighting. But I expect them to start trickling in soon.
Rub making: On a recent hunt in Wisconsin's big woods, scouting walks revealed several fresh rubs. As with most early-season rubs, these were all located close to a food source (in my case, secluded clearcuts).
Scrape making: Mature bucks are making the first tentative scrapes. My host for the Wisconsin hunt, Tom VanDoorn, watched a mature buck on opening night; the buck walked into a rye field, working his antlers on alders growing on the field edge. The buck also started a scrape, working the dry ground so hard with his hooves that Tom could hear dirt flying from 30 yards away.
Chasing: No chasing by truly mature bucks, but several hunters reported young bucks "making a run" at nearby does. I'm convinced these first signs of harassment are just that; feeble attempts at showing does "Hey, I'm a buck. Better fear, respect, or adore me." Most mature does have little tolerance for such juvenile behavior and don't seem to take it seriously.
Estrous signs: None to report.
Daytime movement: After a fairly long stretch of stable weather (which kills day time deer movement, if my observations are correct), a series of small fronts have pushed through the region. Weather events like these seem to put deer on their feet more often. I was driving through good deer country two evenings ago and spotted two fine bucks (one I estimated at 150" or better) feeding in an alfalfa field. While temps were warm (in the high 70's) there was a light mist and plenty of cloud cover; the bucks seemed to feel perfectly comfortable feeding 100 yards from the nearest cover.
X-Factor: The acorn drop continues to be the major curveball for area hunters. Southern Indiana outfitter Ben Reynolds (BBT Outfitters; 812-653-1290) told me this morning that bucks were starting to make fewer appearances on soybean fields lately; with oaks abundant in his area, Ben felt that a promising acorn crop was pulling bucks away from the beans and keeping them in the timber. I expect that story to be a constant theme for the next week or two.