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.
If Saturday, November 12, was not the peak of the rut, it was very close to it. Breeding activity was very intense for the three-day stretch from November 11 to November 13, at least in parts of the Northeast Region.
Tyler Marten dropped a very nice buck with his bow in northwest Pennsylvania, very close to the New York border, Friday morning. Each member of his three-man party saw several bucks that were pursuing does.
Marten does not hunt any specific buck, nor is he a trophy hunter. But that morning he did drop a trophy buck, one they had been watching.
“That deer has been chasing does for over two weeks. We saw it chasing them,” he said. They had dubbed the buck “Crab Claw: because of the way the end of its main beam curved in. Marten had been hunting the area where this buck was observed on and off for a year. His stand was placed where deer crossed a narrow point on a ridge. The morning of his successful hunt he set up his stand very early, then went back to the stand before daylight. A dusting of snow was on the ground, making visibility very good.
About 20 minutes after the first light of day, two does came by with a 6-point buck following, and a spike following the 6-point. They all went into a valley where the bucks chased the does around for a while.
Later, after a brief snow storm, he heard a buck grunting. It continued to grunt, but he never saw that buck. “All of the bucks were vocal,” Marten said. Between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., a doe approached from behind his stand. A spike followed it. “He never quit grunting,” Marten said.
That spike chased the doe around his stand a couple of times. After that he saw another buck–maybe a 6-point, maybe a 4-point–with its head in the dirt and its mouth open. At that point he checked with his father who was hunting nearby. He had seen a nice buck but could not get a shot at it. While talking with his father on the radio another doe approached. It was followed by a nice 10-point, Crab Claw. “She brought him by at 12 yards,” Marten said.
After Marten released his arrow the buck went only 10 yards. It was a perfect 10-point with an outside spread of 18-1/2 inches. The longer tines were 7-1/2 inches in length. They estimated its age at 3-1/2 years, and its score at about 130-points to 135 points. Friday was definitely the peak of the rut,” Marten said. “Saturday was not.”
Maybe so. Maybe not. This is another of the examples we have looked at this fall in which deer are in different stages of the rut from one area to another, in this case not very far apart.
Saturday, Mike Stimmell hunted the last day of the Pennsylvania archery season. He saw a couple of does, but mostly the day was uneventful. His revelation came the next day when he went back to the woods to scout for bear. In addition to finding good bear sign he said, “That area is just full of rut sign right now. Scrapes and rubs everywhere. Some of the rubs are red hot. Bark piles at the bottom of the trees and sap just oozing out from where the bark was, some really big trees too. Also saw a massive deer track in the mud this morning. I mean huge!”
Stimmell saw one good buck while scouting for bear sign.
He added, “At least three guys I know killed bucks between Friday and Saturday, a 6-point and two 8-points.”
All of this took place no more than 25 miles from where Marten took his buck. The only significant difference was habitat. Stimmell was in big woods, Martin was in checkerboard habitat (mix of wood lots, agriculture, overgrown fields, brush and homes).