Overall Activity: We seem to be stuck in hit-and-miss mode, with some hunters experiencing flurries of good activity, while others wonder when the bucks are going to start. On the bright side, some of the better action has visited the region's youth hunters. Winona, Minnesota, hunter Cassie Warren, 10, was hunting with her dad, Christopher, during Minnesota's recent youth deer season when she shot this fantastic buck with a muzzleloader. Cassie had decided to wait for a nice buck (despite her dad's insistence to shoot whatever she wanted) and was finally rewarded. I doubt I'll see a hunter with a bigger smile this fall!
Fighting: I've received very few reports of serious buck fights, but they're obviously occurring. Early this week, an area bowhunter shot a heavy-beamed, 140-class, 13-point buck with several broken tines; clear evidence that dominance battles are getting serious.
Rub Making: While I've found many good rubs on my scouting walks, I'm not seeing the sheer volume of rubs that I do most falls. I'm a little puzzled by this, as the number of scrapes has been nothing short of astounding. I have no idea why bucks are devoting more attention to scraping than rubbing.
Scrape Making: I've walked farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri in the last week and have found fantastic scraping activity. Near my home, I've monitored several scrapes that bucks are tending regularly, and they are also opening new scrapes nearby.
Chasing: This week a fellow bowhunter watched a mature buck dogging a small pod of does, but this was classic run-at-them-and-see-what-happens behavior. I've seen this many times, and it's like a buck is trying to will a doe into entering estrous. So far, I've had no reports of serious chasing, where a buck (or bucks) pursues a doe relentlessly across the landscape.
Daytime Movement: I've sounded like a broken record in this category for the last two weeks; deer moving during daytime has been pretty hit or miss, and I can't explain it completely. We've had excellent weather and the sign indicates that bucks are feeling spunky, but walking while the sun is up does not seem high on their agenda right now. I expect this to change any day.
Estrous Signs: Everyone I've talked to, including Ben Reynolds from BBT Outfitters in Indiana and Ted Marum from Tri-State Outfitting in Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa, feels that while the odd doe has "popped", the main event is still several days away. They expect the best rut activity to occur toward the 9th or 10th of November.
X-Factor: We've turned the calendar to November. In the deer hunter's calendar, there is no bigger event outside of the firearms opener. Things are fixing to get very, very good very, very soon.