Overall Activity Status: In general, overall deer activity is increasing. Temperatures around the Northeast Region are getting closer to seasonal. This probably has more to do with increased movement than anything else.
Fighting: Reports of fighting or sparring bucks increased over the past week.
Rub Making: Reports on rubs normally are consistent from year to year. For some reason this year has been different. In my home area of northwest Pennsylvania, I started seeing an increased number of rubs the past week. One that has me enthused is on a tree that is about 5 inches in diameter. But another one, no more than 3 feet away, is on a tree no more than 2 inches in diameter. Both show deep time marks.
Reports from around the region have been inconsistent. In some areas there are as many rubs as ever. In others, hunters have reported an unusual lack of rubs. This is a total mystery, though I do not want to make too much of it.
Scrape Making: Falling leaves quickly cloak any fresh scrape, but my trail camera that is pointed at a major scrape reveals the truth. It is being visited by bucks, even though there is no visual evidence otherwise.
Connecticut hunter Robert Rogan reported that "Scrapes down here are sporadic–in my New York spots barely a thing, but in Brookfield, one area is lit up with them. That happened in the last week."
Chasing: I have not heard any reports about bucks chasing does, except for one that involved a young buck and a doe that probably was not in heat. It appeared to be playfulness. I have seen this often and suspect it may be between siblings.
Daytime Movement: Daytime movement associated with the rut does not seem to be a significant factor yet. However, daytime movement within my area has increased with the cooler weather.
Estrous Signs: No signs of estrus yet reported.
X Factor: Monday evening, Kirk Rudzinsky, owner of East End Angler Bait and Tackle
in Erie, Pennsylvania, walked to his stand with a scent pad loaded with buck urine tied to his boot. He then made a mock scrape near his stand. Not far away, but hidden from view, is a real scrape. Later, from his stand, he heard what he guessed was a buck working the real scrape. The big buck then made an appearance at his stand.
Now I feel completely safe in suggesting rut hunting tactics. We should soon hear more reports about rut tactics being successful for the next few weeks.
Still, I have not seen nearly as many big bucks as I have seen over the past few falls. The biggest buck, antler-wise, I have caught on a trail camera is the 6-point shown above. It has a broad spread and long tines, but the antlers are thin. Unfortunately, it is in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, where it is not legal game. In this area bucks must have at least three points above the brow tine on at least one side.
Robert Rogan is having similar sightings in Connecticut and New York. He has seen more buck activity over the past couple of weeks, but no big bucks.