We’re at an interesting phase of the deer season right now, one where weather is just starting to play a bigger role in how and when deer move. This was most notable in the reports from the Great Plains (David Draper) and the West (Jeff Holmes); both writers commented on an impending storm set to sock the West and the Plains late in the week. As fall progresses, the effect of such weather systems becomes increasingly dramatic, and as I write this summary I have the benefit of knowing that much of this region was absolutely pummeled by snow (over 3 feet in some areas).
While these storms can put a halt to hunting for a few days, they typically result in fantastic opportunities in the aftermath. Some of the best hunts in my memory have occurred in the days following a big storm. The typical response of whitetails to these big weather events is to hole up in thick cover, and once things settle down, they are hungry and ready to move. Pay special attention to these weather fronts as we approach the rut, as they can often kick ho-hum breeding activity into overdrive.
South reporter Eric Bruce and our Mid-South man Will Brantley both reported buck fights in their region this week, and those skirmishes are notable for several reasons. First, serious clashes can (as I’ve pointed out in this space before) happen at any moment after velvet shed; Brantley’s analogy of two schoolboys duking it out on a playground was spot-on. Second, bucks in the aftermath of a fight are, as Bruce’s report illustrates, highly vulnerable to calling and rattling. I’ve said it often, but a buck’s mood is a huge factor in deciding his response to a calling effort, and there is no more vulnerable candidate than an adrenaline-jazzed buck that’s been chasing, sparring, or fighting.
Finally, Northeast reporter Mike Bleech brings up an interesting technique he calls “salting” an area with mock scrapes. I use the same method but call it something else. Regardless of your moniker, starting—or taking over—an area with some mock scrapes is an excellent tactic right now. In addition to creating a killer site for trail cam pics, I also believe there’s a side benefit of getting bucks accustomed to coming to an area to check for the signs and scent of other deer; kind of like a fire hydrant seems to have a gravitational pull for any dog in a neighborhood. But if you’re going to start salting scrapes, get on with it now; in my experience, the first three weeks of October are the best for this activity. Wait much longer, and scrapes will have lost much of their attraction for bucks.