Overall Activity Status: Deer movement was a certified mixed bag last week. Early in the week a low-pressure system brought rain (including thunderstorms) and high winds to the region; this slowed whitetail activity quite a bit. Thursday evening the system blew out of the region and was followed by high pressure and cold temps. I’m already receiving reports of good deer movement.
Fighting: Definitely an increase in aggressive behavior between pre-rut bucks. I pulled a trail camera I’d hung over a scrape last weekend, and on two different nights captured photos of extended buck fights. Iowa bowhunter Christy Hochstettler reported watching a sparring match that turned into a mildly serious brawl shortly after two nice bucks met. I expect more reports of fighting between bucks in the days to come.
Rub making: Rubs are appearing in new areas, and many established rubs are being worked again. Bucks will be rubbing with increasing frequency in the days ahead. Many are what I call “frustration rubs” being made by bucks that are ready for breeding to begin.
Scrape making: This is absolutely the peak scraping period for the region’s whitetails this year. Bucks are opening up new scrapes along travel corridors and constantly working established scrapes near food sources. I set a camera over a pair of field-edge scrapes one week ago and captured nearly 350 images, including does, immature bucks, and four bucks I judged to be 3-1/2 years old or older. If you want a glimpse of what lives in your hunting area, hang a camera near a scrape right now. It’s also an excellent time to hunt over fresh scrapes; I have several photos of nice bucks hitting scrapes an hour before dark.
Chasing: No reports of full-out chases yet. However, I’ve received two different reports from Wisconsin hunters of bucks badgering does in and around evening food sources. This is a sure sign that the rut’s “seeking” phase is soon to start.
Daytime movement: Again, this is increasing as the rut approaches, but remains highly weather-dependent. Early in the week hunters who slogged through the warm, rainy spell weren’t seeing many deer. But I expect my phone will be ringing shortly with lots of great buck sightings.
Estrous signs: No reports of does in heat or of full-blown chases yet. We’re still several days away from the first does coming into heat.
X-Factor:** Without a doubt, weather is playing a huge role right now. Hunters able to get in the field should see a huge uptick in deer movement. Also, knowing the home range and patterns of mature deer is critical in these days leading up to the seeking and chase phases of the rut. Illinois bowhunter Marc Anthony used his knowledge to tag this 170-inch monster last week. Marc hunts from the ground, wearing a ghillie suit, and has been consistently successful in tagging mature bucks that he’s patterned through trail cam use and persistent scouting. Congratulations, Marc!