Bleech: Rubs and Loner Bucks

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.

Overall Activity Status: Deer activity, including that of bucks, is still based on feeding activity. Numerous bucks can be seen at apple trees, but just one buck at a time. The 9-point is feeding in a hidden, old apple orchard in the picture below.

Fighting: We are generally seeing only lone bucks, especially as it relates to the older bucks. As far as fighting goes, a hunter is very fortunate ever to witness actual fighting. More frequently we just see bucks almost timidly brushing antlers against one another. But the time is getting right for it to happen. Dominance will long have been established by the time breeding becomes more frequent. If you want to attract deer by rattling, this might be a good time to start.

Rub Making: Rub making is getting underway. Andy Buschak, an avid deer hunter who works at Edinboro Outdoors, in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, scouts on both sides of the Pennsylvania/Ohio line. This week he found a half-dozen fresh rubs in northeast Ohio. Rubs are scattered, he said, there are no rub lines yet. Virtually all bucks in the area have shed their velvet.

In northern Maine, No. 9 Lake Outfitters owner Dan Burnett reported finding his first rub this fall along an old logging road. That is one of the nice things about rubs, bucks seem to have a special affinity toward old woods roads. Velvet shedding is not as far along here as it is to the south.

I spotted my first 2011 rub in the Allegheny National Forest this afternoon less than 100 yards from the trail cam that photographed this 9-point buck. The rub was made within the past 30 hours.

Chasing: It could happen, but none has been reported so far.

Daytime Movement: Our roving trucker Dave Baker just completed a swing through Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey without seeing a single buck. This is particularly noteworthy because he was riding with another trucker, so he devoted more effort than usual to scanning the surroundings for deer. This is a pretty good indication that there has not been much daytime movement, at least in those coastal states.

That same day, Wednesday the 21st, I spent the afternoon scouting in the Allegheny National Forest and saw a grand total of one deer, where I would normally expect to see a dozen, or many more. However, that deer was a nice buck. There is little doubt that antler restrictions have worked in Pennsylvania, at least as far as yielding older bucks goes. I have never seen so many nice bucks on this half-million acres of public land.

Estrous Signs: As with chasing, it could happen, but the odds are low. We are in the time frame for the rut, but far from the peak of the rut when the vast majority of breeding takes place.

X Factor: Bowhunting seasons around the Northeast either are underway, or are about to be. No matter what else is happening, this is a very exciting time. If you have been noting times on trail cameras, most deer activity around apple trees and other food sources happens at night. Backtrack the deer and try to set up your stand(s) some distance away from feeding areas, but by no means should they be near bedding areas. Nothing will alert deer that they are being hunted quicker than getting into bedding areas.