Overall Activity: Another week of mixed-bag reports from the whitetail woods. Some guys are having a tough time. But hunters who are on to the hot food source in their area—and lucky enough to have the right weather conditions—are seeing deer fairly consistently. I just returned from a grouse hunt in northern Wisconsin, where I found good buck sign in just about every stand of red oaks that was dropping acorns. In farm country, the fall harvest is impacting where hunters see deer. Soybeans are typically the first crop to come off, and whitetails adore hitting those fields just after the combine comes through. Just before I left on my grouse hunt, I spotted a mature 12-point feasting on a just-picked bean field, right at dusk.
Fighting: No reports from hunters in the field, but guide Danny Clipp from BBT Outfitters sent the trail-cam photo above of two bucks sparring, so there is definitely some social readjustment going on in the wake of velvet shed and the breakup of bachelor groups.
Rub-Making: Some of the early-season rubs are fading now; a rub on a sumac I found three weeks ago is now dull and clearly not freshened recently. But bucks are rubbing sporadically. This time of the fall, constant scouting is required to find fresh rubs, which invariably pop up close to the newest hot food source.
Scraping: As noted in last week’s reports, scrapes in staging and transition areas are getting lots of attention from bucks right now, so it pays to get cameras on them. Even if the sign doesn’t appear to be recently worked, both bucks and does may be hitting the licking branch regularly.
Chasing: None to report.
Estrous Signs: Nothing yet, though—with peak breeding just over a month off—I suspect a handful of does will be coming into estrous early within the next week or so.
X-Factor: Two big variables are in play now. The most dramatic is—as mentioned—the onset of the fall harvest, which is at least a week ahead of last year. With corn and soybeans starting to come off the fields, deer will adjust feeding and bedding areas accordingly. Another factor that could throw deer hunters for a loop is the opening of small-game seasons across the region. While this rarely has a long-term impact in deer movement, it can put a wrench in your short-term hunting plans. I live close to several tracts of public land that get hit pretty hard by squirrel hunters, and sometimes have to redouble my scouting efforts to figure out if a buck has shifted his favorite haunts to avoid the disturbance.