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.
How whitetail hunting has changed. From a local perspective, hunters see interest in it as either increasing or decreasing. It has been my good fortune to hunt deer in several states and provinces, and at several places around some of these. This has allowed me a slightly different perspective, that which shows more shifting than either increasing or decreasing interest in deer hunting.
One way this affected my hunt on the opening day of the Pennsylvania season was that deer were not moving much because few hunters were in my vicinity. My wife, Jeri, and my truck-driving buddy, Dave Baker, and I hunted together near the edge of Big Woods and farm country. It was the first time I can recall when neither my wife nor I saw any deer during the Pennsylvania opening day.
Baker did see deer, three apparent does which ran past him, and another deer which walked quickly past him with its nose to the ground about an hour later. “I’ll bet that was a buck following those does,” Baker said, adding that although he did not make out antlers, it appeared to be a large deer with a thick neck.
All of these deer were moving out of mixed timber toward a slashing, the kind of habitat where you almost have to step on deer to get them moving, and where deer often bed or just relax, relatively that is.
Indeed that experience did have all of the appearances of rutting deer. Perhaps the first three deer had been jumped by anther hunter, though we did not know of any other hunters in the direction from which they came, and certainly not within a quarter-mile. The fourth, single deer was moving on its own, and seemingly with purpose.
I will take that as a very likely indication that the rut is still as it has been for most of the past few weeks, slow but steady and sure, with the hopeful exception that bucks may be more desperate to breed.