From Maryland, central New York, and Vermont come reports of fewer rubs and scrapes. In Maine, reports do not tell of anything, but again this probably is just a matter of low deer density. Sign of all types is harder to find there, and fewer hunters are venturing deep into the northern forests.
Here in my area, the Allegheny National Forest, bucks were not showing themselves over the past several days, likely because of relatively warm weather. That weather took a down-turn over the weekend. A Sunday scouting venture turned up things of interest. The most significant sign was from the previous year. We found an area where a lot of rutting activity had taken place. There were places where a big buck had antler-wrestled with clumps of saplings, and rubs close by. This was in a place that had all the appearances of many other places where I have seen a lot of rut activity, often enough to call it a regular pattern (to the extent that I feel comfortable in stating it is a type of place where rutting bucks like to be).
This type of place is characterized by a lot of dense cover in the immediate vicinity, preferably surrounding small, open sections. It is a small opening that provides isolation. Three or four deer trails lead into it (or out of it).
The afternoon was the kind we prefer for in-season scouting–dreary and rainy. Maybe this is nothing more than misguided logic, but we believe rain washes away the odors we normally leave wherever we go.
Something else that will influence the rut and how we should hunt it is the unusual apple crop this fall. In the heart of my scouting area there is a loosely scattered apple orchard. These remnants of apple trees, which long ago had been planted around houses and other buildings were some of the very few apple trees in my area that produced apples this fall. But within the past week, virtually all of the apples have fallen to the ground. In a normal year, apples are still dropping during the late archery and flintlock season, which runs one month starting the day after Christmas. This goes along with the trend we have observed this fall of things happening sooner than usual. This afternoon, my partner, Mike Stimmell, wondered out loud, “Do you suppose the rut is going to come early?”
Probably not, since it is triggered by the phototropic period (the length of daylight). But we will be alert for any too soon rutting signs.
To Nate, who left a detailed comment on my previous post about watching four bucks spar: You are very lucky to be seeing so much sparring. I gather that there has been no hard core fighting, at least none you have seen. Still, it is a lot of fun to observe this kind of activity. I have seen just one sparring event this fall. But as I mentioned previously, as of late the few bucks I have seen were no longer in pairs or small groups, but instead were loners. I take that as a sign they have started to fight, or at least are feeling belligerent to one another.