By Brandon Ray
Years ago, it seemed that every evening I would scout before opening day of Texas’ archery deer season, some giant critter would walk right in front of me--namely, a big aoudad ram or boar hog. And I was always unarmed. It’s legal to hunt exotics and hogs year-round in Texas. I’m a slow learner, but finally I started carrying a rifle or bow on my evening scouting trips.
On Wednesday, September 12, while I was perched on the rim of a canyon, just such a scenario unfolded. [ Read Full Post ]
By Mike Bleech
Overall Activity Status: Deer are becoming increasingly active. This will be more noticeable when daytime temperatures become lower.
Fighting: Fighting could start any time. No fighting has yet been reported, but this does not mean much since fighting is not often seen. Scouting on the Allegheny National Forest this evening by using a spotlight while driving back roads, we saw a pair of young bucks in the 4-point to 6-point class, with spreads of less than 10 inches, laying side by side in a field. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
The hot, dry summer has affected deer in ways I didn’t anticipate. Perhaps the biggest is the insanely early harvest of the year’s corn crop. Some of the region’s farmers have taken out withered, drought-stricken cornfields as early as late summer; these extremely early “harvests” are required by insurance companies so that damage claims can be processed.
But in areas—like mine—where corn had enough rain to grow well, the annual fall harvest has already begun. My neighbors, who cash-crop corn and soybeans, started combining corn on September 6th. This is the earliest harvest date in their family memory. Early spring plantings have combined with a few timely rains and excellent drying conditions to push the harvest date ahead by a full two-three weeks. [ Read Full Post ]
By Will Brantley
Overall Activity Status: Deer movement has been steady in Kentucky during the first couple weeks of the season. Deer are still entrenched in their early season patterns, with the best movement occurring during the last 45 minutes of daylight near major food sources, especially bean fields. Beans as a whole seem to be behind throughout the region thanks to late-summer rains.
“In much of Virginia, the beans are about six weeks behind,” says Matt Knox, deer project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “Beans are more drought-tolerant than corn, and in much of the state, they’re emerald green and waist-high, whereas the fields would typically be turning yellow this time of year. It’s created a deer paradise for sure.”
Fighting: Though there’ve been reports of casual sparring, a good number of bucks are still in full velvet and hanging tight in bachelor groups. Most sparring is still a couple weeks away. [ Read Full Post ]
By Jeff Holmes
The owner of Western Wyoming’s Wind River Whitetails, Mike Rinehart, utilizes a large network of game cameras on his sprawling Wyoming ranch, which has been under management for trophy whitetails for over a decade.
After having cameras in the field for only a few days this season, a day after telling me over the phone about the plus-sized whitetails on his ranch sometimes field-dressing 250 pounds, Rinehart captured numerous 3 1/2-year-old bucks on cameras this week, including this 4x4, all shed of velvet with “nothing on their minds but eating.”
Rinehart’s observations reveal no signs yet of anything close to signs of estrus, or any fighting or serious chasing among bucks—yet. [ Read Full Post ]
By Brandon Ray
There’s something exciting about finding the first fresh rub of the season. I saw mine on September 10, late in the evening. It was in a thick patch of mesquite trees, just off the shoulder of a two-track road. The mesquite was rubbed about thigh-and-waist high on a limb the size of a shovel handle. The peeled bark was a yellowish color and a broken limb, with green leaves still on it, lay under the rub. I guess it was less than 24 hours old.
So I started looking closer, wandering around through the mesquites. I followed a cow trail, weaving back and forth through the 10-foot high forest. I found three more rubbed mesquites in about a 300-yard area. The biggest was on a stout trunk bigger than my forearm. I took photos of them just to document the occasion. Maybe they’re from multiple deer. Or are they from the same buck? [ Read Full Post ]
By Eric Bruce
One of the most exciting events for a deer hunter is the opening of a new season. A brand new slate and the prospects of challenging new bucks await the sportsman. South Carolina's season is already open and some Palmetto hunters have already scored. Georgia opened its archery season this past Saturday and reports are coming in of successful archers collecting some early venison.
In addition to a new season opening, getting the chance to hunt new property is also exciting. That is just what happened to Kenneth Free. Along with his brother, his friend Dan, and Dan's father, Free had been scouting and planting food plots on another property in Georgia in preparation for the season, but the lure of new property was too strong. "After a short discussion on Friday night, we could not overcome the excitement of hunting a new area and on Saturday morning we were headed to the new property," Free said. "We were both excited about the possibility to hunt an area which we knew held not only several deer but some quality deer too." [ Read Full Post ]
By Brandon Ray
I spent the weekend scouting. First, from the truck driving along CRP fields and canyon breaks here in the Texas Panhandle. It was the start of a spotlight survey I’m required to do three times per season on our ranch for our Managed Land Deer Permits (MLDP). I snapped the accompanying photo of a good mule deer right at sunset. He has a deep-forked, 4x4 frame with brow tines and a narrow spread. And the extra kicker inside one of his back forks makes him an 11-point. He was part of a bachelor herd of four bucks. All were still in full velvet.
On Sunday evening, I sat perched on the rim of a broad canyon behind a tripod-mounted 80mm Leupold spotting scope. Below me was a winding river with a few tall cottonwoods, cedars and thick mesquites. The vegetation is still green and very thick, making it difficult to spot the deer. I only saw three whitetail does, moving near a corn feeder at sunset. But the evening was not a total loss. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
The rut is weeks away—indeed, seasons aren't even open in many states—but our national panel of reporters is already bringing some of the best scoop on deer behavior out there.
Mid-South Rut Reporter Will Brantley gave us all déjà vu. Last year about this time, his lovely bride Michelle started off the season with a dandy Kentucky buck. Well, Michelle led us all straight out of the gate this year with a gorgeous velvet 8-point. Will reported that his better half struck while the iron was hot; bucks are shedding their velvet quickly across the region, and as they come into hard antler, are starting to open up some scrapes. And if there’s a silver lining in any hurricane, Isaac’s was the rain it brought inland to Brantley’s region.
Farther south, Rut Reporter Eric Bruce says whitetails in his region are still largely in their summer pattern, and the continued warm weather has restricted movement to the first and last slivers of light. Still, that hasn’t prevented hunters—like North Carolina’s Bo Settles—from finding and patterning bucks. Settles shot a fine velvet 12-point last week. Bruce notes that as more bucks lose velvet, scrape and rub activity should be increasing. [ Read Full Post ]
By David Draper
With just a few exceptions, most of my contacts have been conspicuously quiet this past week, which I’m attributing to some pre-game jitters as we approach opening day. Kansas and Nebraska openers are this coming weekend, while North Dakota starts a youth season on September 14. South Dakota bowhunters have to wait until the 23rd to get in the field, giving my friends there an extra week of scouting and preparation. The hunters I did talk to had mixed reports about the year, with some expressing concerns about EHD (which I’ll cover in an upcoming report) and others already patterning specific bucks. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Overall Activity Status: Whitetail activity appears to be good as a whole, but hunters are starting to notice some shifts in behavior and feeding patterns. The first white oak acorns of the season are starting to drop, an annual happening that will pull deer off fields, food plots, and other areas of high visibility. Bucks that have seemed locked into feeding patterns may seem to disappear. If there are white oaks in the area, count on deer being on the acorn wagon. Soft mast crops, such as apples and persimmons, are another secluded food source that bucks may investigate.
Fighting: I’ve heard no reports of hard-core fighting, but as more and more bucks shed velvet, sparring is picking up. Bucks love to test their mettle while fresh in the hard antler phase! [ Read Full Post ]
By Jeff Holmes
In 2011, for the first time ever in Idaho, hunters harvested fewer mule deer than whitetails--big news for a state with a deer harvest that has long been dominated by muleys, and whose recent-big game headlines have been dominated by wolves and stories of their impacts (some exaggerated, some true). Wolf kills, scat, howls, and tracks—like the one pictured above—are frequent reminders of wolves’ presence in the Western whitetail woods.
Whitetail numbers in northern Idaho have been robust for decades and have expanded from their stronghold north of the Salmon River, where the Idaho Department of Fish and Game manages primarily for whitetails, into river corridors of Southern Idaho, where IDFG manages specifically for mule deer. [ Read Full Post ]
By Mike Bleech
Overall Activity Status: Bucks are relatively inactive now. Their antlers are soft, and they do not risk damaging them.
Fighting: No fighting.
Rub and Scrape Making: No rubs for a while yet. Some scrapes might be seen, but not the type of scrapes that will appear once rutting activity gets underway. I found one scrape this week while scouting farm country along the Ohio/Pennsylvania border.
Chasing: If there is any chasing now it is yearlings playing. [ Read Full Post ]
By Brandon Ray
I find the best information on deer in a specific area comes from the guys that are in the field year-round. One such guy is my friend Ronnie Parsons. Parsons hunts whitetails in west-central Texas. He’s been hunting there for decades. That’s him in the photo with one of his many Texas bow bucks. So far, he has 34 Pope & Young whitetails from Texas, including two taken during last year’s terrible drought.
So I asked Parsons for his outlook on hunting middle Texas this season. [ Read Full Post ]