Overall activity: Generally, deer movement has been good to excellent in the region. Cool weather continues, the corn harvest has progressed (and forced deer into the timber) and the rut is working its magic. The next 7-10 days should bring some very good bucks past hunters.
Fighting: Plenty of reports of bucks with broken tines, and response to rattling and grunting has been excellent as a rule. Travis Bucholz, guide for Tri-State Outfitters, witnessed several bucks snort-wheezing at other bucks, and saw one buck with several broken tines (and one eye missing) on a recent hunt.
Rub making: I’ve found very few fresh rubs on scouting expeditions and enroute to stands here in Minnesota. In areas where the rut hasn’t progressed so far, I’d expect bucks to still be working old rubs and making new ones.
Scrape making: Ben Reynolds (BBT Outfitters; 812-653-1290) says daytime movement has been excellent in his area near French Lick, Indiana, with lots of bucks working scrapelines during daylight hours.
Chasing: I’ve seen one chase this week, and it didn’t last long; the young doe was not ready and the buck (a nice 2-1/2 year old 8-point) gave up quickly and came to my grunt calls. I suspect some mature does have come into heat and are keeping some of the bigger deer I know are around busy.
Daytime movement: Good to excellent. From Missouri to Wisconsin, from Indiana to Michigan, hunters are reporting good daytime buck movement. In fact, my best buck activity has been from 8 a.m. to noon. I’ve seen very little movement at the typical dawn and dusk time frames normally associated with whitetails.
Estrous signs: Several hunters have reported frantic chasing. Veteran Wisconsin bowhunter Tom VanDoorn, however, reported an encounter with a mature buck that scanned a field with several feeding does. “The buck seemed to be able to judge that none of them were ready to breed, and didn’t even bother chasing or pursuing them,” VanDoorn says. “I think he was reading body language and knew it wasn’t worth his effort to give chase. That’s the difference between a really old buck and a young one. Young bucks will chase on principle, old timers don’t waste energy.”
X-Factor: Firearms season begins in Minnesota this weekend. That influx of hunters won’t stop rutting activity, but it might move whitetails toward dense cover. Savvy hunters will watch funnels that connect security cover to intercept bucks and does moving away from high-pressure areas.