If my own experience is any indication of what deer will do shortly, I have the following advice: get your trail cameras on scrapes (real, or those of your own making) immediately. I’ve seen a big uptick in scrape-making in the last several days, and buck visits are definitely picking up. The whitetail pictured above was the 8th buck to visit this mock scrape (located within 100 yards of my house) in the last 5 days.
I’m not alone in this observation. Ben Reynolds of BBT Outfitters near French Lick, Indiana, took a break from combining his corn crop to do some scouting this past weekend. “I saw a few good rubs, but what really caught my eye was the number of scrapes out there,” he said. “Bucks have really started to lay them down lately in their core areas. Overall, most deer have quit feeding in crop fields and are really hitting the acorns hard.”
Outfitter Ted Marum filed a similar report from Iowa this past weekend. Marum, owner of Tri-State Outfitting, was guiding opening-weekend bowhunters in the Hawkeye State and said bucks are starting to get active. “My hunters didn’t have any encounters with the really big bucks we know are out there, but overall they had a fun weekend and saw plenty of deer, including some nice bucks,” he said. “Buck sign is picking up by the day, especially scrapes. It will get really interesting here in the next couple of weeks. It seems the cool weather has most of the deer really active.”
Indeed, cool weather was a recurring theme last week. Over the weekend, I scouted the big woods of northern Wisconsin with friend and logger, Tom VanDoorn. When we woke up on Saturday morning, slushy snow covered our trucks. Though the white stuff soon melted off, the day remained cool and, perhaps more notable, many trees had shed their leaves. This gave the woods a much more November feel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if pre-rut activity got an early start this fall.
It was a great day for a scouting walk, which we focused on finding acorns dropping from secluded stands of red oak. However, five hours of hard trekking produced disappointing results. Despite excellent acorn crops in nearby areas, this section of the northwoods was almost devoid of hard mast. This was important information, however, because in the weeks ahead we’ll devote our attention to clearcut edges and other food sources as we scout and hunt. Despite reports of locally spectacular food sources, it’s always a good idea to verify that information by scouting the specific areas you hunt.