Overall activity status: With archery seasons opening up in Illinois and Iowa, I’ve received several reports of great bucks being shot in those hotspot states, and I’m tracking down the stories. Meanwhile, youth hunts were conducted this past weekend in Wisconsin, and Matty Dickerson (pictured above) had a great hunt in Buffalo County, where she shot a gorgeous 8-point and a doe. Congrats to Matty! Seeing young hunters enjoying success is always one of the highlights of my fall.

Fighting: Ted Marum, owner of Tri-State Outfitters, reported that clients on his properties in Iowa and Missouri are seeing small bachelor groups of bucks. Some of these deer are sparring. Though no serious fights are breaking out, some of the matches are significant.

Rub making: Rubs are appearing more frequently as hard antlered bucks work trees in their core areas. Most of these rubs are still being made by older deer.

Scrape making: It’s far from peak scraping time in the region, but bucks are definitely working scrapes that were established shortly after velvet shed. While I helped a buddy blood-trail a buck he’d shot this week, I found several active scrapes located in staging areas off of main food sources. These scrapes were all in areas where the tree canopy was dense and nearby thickets offered security.

Chasing: None to report.

Estrous signs: We’re about a month away from the chase phase of the rut, and slightly further away from peak breeding. However, I expect to hear reports of hunters encountering the first “early does” entering estrus before the main event. One Michigan hunter reported an absolute frenzy of buck sign and activity in his area, and felt that a doe had come into estrus.

Daytime movement: It had been warm early last week, which has affected daytime activity to some degree. However, a sharp cold front pushed into the region in the last few days, and I expect deer movement to increase.

X-Factor: The drought has affected where deer are moving and feeding. Two different stories of nice bucks shot at or near water sources reached my inbox this week, but at this point, no photos. Day time temps have fluctuated wildly across the region; in areas where it’s been 70 to 80 degrees in the afternoon whitetails are feeding well, but not traveling far to do it. Green food sources like alfalfa, winter wheat or rye, and food plots have been the strongest draws. Even as temperatures drop, dry conditions will keep creeks, ponds and water sources top places to encounter a buck.