Bleech: Northeast Deer Stepping It Up

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.

Nov. 3--Overall Activity Status: Deer have been quite active. Forms of activity have varied over the past few days from feeding, to false rut, to does in heat.

Fighting: This is not the time for fight. It is the time for love, or something similar. What looks like it might be a fight will usually just be a bluff, since the bucks already know who is boss.

Rub Making: Both rubs and scrapes just crept up on us, in quantity. It is shaping up to be a normal late Hunters' Moon fall. Things seem to be confusing, but only because we might be expecting too much.

Chasing: Late last week came the first small wave of reports about mature bucks chasing does. This week that activity is increasing.

Daytime Movement: Not a lot in the way of midday deer movement except in the wilder areas. However, movements into late morning and earlier in the afternoon than usual have been going on through much of this fall. The exceptions are when does come into heat.

Estrous Signs: Watch for unusual tail movements and attitudes by does. Does generally do not walk around with their tails stuck up. Does can occasionally be seen checking scrapes, even licking overhanging limbs. Two of my trail cams are along a scrape line-- at least eight scrapes in a half-mile. From the looks of the fresher sign at some of these scrapes, they have been visited only by does, but there is a much bigger track in the immediate area that has not been at the scrapes. Likely that buck made the scrapes.

X Factor: Some hunters mistakenly think the rut is a well-defined, brief period. In fact, the rut may start in October and continue into January. If a doe is in heat, a buck can breed her. What is often referred to as the "peak if the rut," a time when numerous does are in heat, usually happens around a full moon. A full moon has that effect in other mammals, too. However, the most successful time for deer to breed in the Northeast Region is the first couple weeks of November. The reason is that the gestation period lasts a set period of time. If does are bred late, the fawns are born late, and this greatly reduces their chances of surviving a rough winter.

My truck driving buddy, Dave Baker, a fine deer hunter and a good observer, tells me that while passing through Ohio on I-80 he saw a big increase in the number of dead deer along the highway this week, and he especially noticed smashed antlers. That is a sure sign if increased deer movements.

My suggestion is to get out there is much as you can over the next couple of weeks. In our states, where a deer season is open around the November 21 full moon, watch for a bump, if not an actual peak, in rutting activity.