Overall Activity Status: Overall deer activity seems to be increasing, as though in anticipation of the rut. In some parts of the Northeast it is thought of as occurring earlier than normal.
Fighting: Bucks should be fighting, but only rarely do hunters get the opportunity to observe actual all-out buck fights. More bucks are being seen now as singles, a good sign that dominance has been established through fighting.
Rub & Scrape Making: Bucks are making rubs and scrapes all over the region now. New scrapes are appearing. Frank’s Gun & Tackle Shop in Gloversville, New York reports that scrapes and rubs are appearing early this year in the north zone of New York.
Chasing: Hunters have reported watching bucks chasing does. Some of the does may be in heat. Watch for young bucks chasing does playfully. Perhaps they are siblings. A young buck chasing a doe in circles, in a field, is probably not rutting activity.
Daytime Movement: Daily temperatures exert the main influence on deer movement now, but it is time for things to start happening.
Estrous Signs: Bucks are sniffing for the odors of estrus, but as of yet no reports have come in of hunters seeing hot does. Hunters have reported seeing bucks intently looking for hot does. If the rut is to be early, it had better get started or it will no longer be early. Remember that the rut is not a short-duration affair. Rutting typically starts sometime in October and may continue past December. It is the peak of the rut which generally happens around mid-November that gets hunters excited because activity peaks. There probably will be a second peak almost a month later, but it will not involve as many deer as the first peak. Also, rutting goes on between peaks.
X Factor: Although feeding still is the primary influence for doe movement, bucks are starting to look for hot does. This will make them move more and farther, which improves the odds of seeing them.
We can start to use hunting tactics that relate more to the rut now. My favorite is the grunt tube, which is not a tool that is restricted to the rut. I have seen deer respond to grunt calls in midsummer. The grunt I use most often is a simple two-grunt call. Each grunt is about one second in duration, separated by about one second of silence. This is most effective when I have seen a buck that is not otherwise coming to my stand. The grunts usually get the buck to come toward me, though not always within shooting range. Occasionally the same two grunts will bring in deer I hadn’t seen. Once the buck is coming, quit calling. Your hands are better occupied by getting the bow ready.
Antler rattling might be effective now. Not many hunters in the Northeast have a lot of success rattling antlers. It is worth a try, though, and it is fun.