Whitetail Hunting photo

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.

Like just about every other bowhunter who has an unfilled buck tag, I was determined to get into the woods every moment possible during this last week of bowhunting season, especially since it happens during a week deer biologists recognize as the peak of the rut in my home state, Pennsylvania. From my house it is just a couple minutes of driving time until I cross into the Allegheny National Forest and start an uphill grade. About a mile farther along, nearing the top of the plateau, a doe crossed the road about 50 yards ahead. I recognized the gait. No sooner had I slowed the truck to a crawl when a nice buck crossed the road. It was followed by a second, even nicer buck.

Was I excited to get to my hunting area. No question mark.

I had pulled, perhaps ruptured, a muscle in my stomach which prevented me from using my climbing treestand, so I hunted on the ground. Rather than still-hunting as I probably would have done before the peak of the rut, I chose a stand between the split trunk of a fallen tree, a perfect natural blind.

I cannot seem to remember how much time passed for some reason. What transpired after that time lapse had my full attention. Again I saw a doe moving quickly in that recognizable gait. Because the cover was dense, I did not immediately notice the buck following her so closely his nose was almost under her erect tail.

I tried grunting a few times, to no avail of course. I had tried that before in precisely the same situation. When a buck is chasing a doe that hot, he can not easily be diverted. He made absolutely no response to my grunts. They passed barely out of shooting range, my last exciting moment of the afternoon.
Are we in the peak of the rut?**

Probably. We are in the peak just about everywhere in the Northeast Region, except perhaps in the extreme north. In some areas it is the second week of the peak, in other areas it is the first week. But make no mistake about it, if you want to hunt during the peak of the rut, you want to be afield this week.

Not every hunter wants to hunt during the peak of the rut. Taxidermist Jason Morrison prefers the week before the peak of the rut for exactly the reason I was not able to catch the attention of the buck I saw after the hot doe. That makes good sense, but most of us like to witness the goings-on during the peak of the rut. This is an exciting time to be a hunter. Even if it may be difficult to get within bow range of a big buck, the odds of seeing big bucks are probably the best they will ever be.

So, I quickly finished reporting on the rut, and am now getting back to the hunt!