An increasing number of bucks are visible from back roads now, which is to be expected because it seems most bucks have shed their velvet. I do not recall the velvet shed happening so quickly (though it’s possible that I have not paid this as much attention in the past).
Here is a perfect lesson about forming conclusions based only on one’s own observations. I just bumped into Rob Arnold, a friend who works for the Allegheny National Forest, and a follower of this rut blog, in a supermarket parking lot. He said he saw his first buck rubs two weeks ago.
A contact in the Finger Lakes region of New York saw rubs last week. He is still seeing some bucks in the velvet, all of them young bucks. Older bucks have shed their velvet.
It would be interesting to hear from some of you about this. Remember, this is a learning experience for all of us. Though I have contacts for rut information all around our Northeast Region, the more information we gather, the better for us all.
Mast is pretty good in my area, but not great. Apples are scarce, especially at lower elevations, presumably due to early warm weather followed by a hard frost. Acorns, both red oaks and white oaks, are in fair to good supply, and there are some beech nuts. There is a good amount of cherry, but that may be gone quickly.
In New York, south of the Adirondacks, reports tell of plentiful acorns. Naturally, I have been hearing very different reports around our Northeast Region. Mast crops typically do vary from place to place. This is important to the rut because does will relate to mast through most of the fall. Bucks relate to does, and they do a lot more feeding than some hunters seem to think. Bucks may forego eating while they are on the trail of hot does. They do lose a lot of body weight. I have killed numerous bucks that had very little fat. I attribute that to a combination of reduced intake and increased exercise.
Note that when preferred mast is abundant, deer are not as inclined to feed in open areas. This can have a very significant effect on perceived deer movements.
If you wonder whether bucks eat during the rut, just think back on your own experiences, particularly what you have observed while in a tree stand. Very likely you have observed bucks browsing