Bleech: Northeast Rut Seems Gradual This Year

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.
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Nov. 10:** Got a message from executive editor Mike Toth this week. While hunting woodcock on a wildlife management area in New Jersey last Saturday he spotted a buck with a doe, then got low to watch with binoculars. He glanced at his watch and it was 1:30 p.m. The doe may have noticed him, but the buck, which had a fine rack, had eyes only for the doe as he walked half-circles around her. She did not appear to pay him much attention. She only looked for food.

What would you make of that?

My guess is they he senses she will soon be in heat, or less likely, she has just finished breeding. Either way it does not matter much to a hunter. As long as a buck is following a doe, the chances for a successful hunt are very good. There is no need to over-analyze things. Much as I like hunting timberdoodles, I would rather have been in a treestand nearby with my bow.

As suggested earlier, the rut appears to be coming as a gradual process, not in a rush. Perhaps there will be a flurry of big buck and hot doe activity around the November full moon. But if not, there is a bright side to everything. With does trickling into heat, good rut-related hunting will last longer than if it came in a flurry around a full moon in the first half of the month. In that situation it would wind down more quickly.

Another phone call from trucker buddy Dave Baker, and how things can change in little more than a day. After dropping off one load and picking up another he headed back to Ohio. Just before leaving Pennsylvania he saw a 6-point alongside the road. After going through the northern panhandle of West Virginia he was back in Ohio.

"There were at least 30 dead deer in the first 50 miles after getting into Ohio. That's a conservative estimate," he said. And within the first 10 miles he passed a huge 10-point buck. "That had to have been a record book buck," Baker said.

Reports from New York have been about the same, up and down at about the same time.

The only reports coming from New England have been "Having trouble just finding deer." But certainly some hunters are doing better.