Interesting how the way we look at things changes once the hunting season opens, when we become working predators. Like all predators, we look for weaknesses in our quarry that might give us an advantage. Our excitement level rises sharply the instant we realize a pattern in the movements of a buck that may provide that advantage.
The first major change in deer behavior happened when bucks shed the velvet from their antlers. Before that there was a period of relatively little change. Now again there is a period of relatively little change. Bucks have been ready for a doe to come into heat since the antlers hardened, but that is not likely for a couple weeks, at least. Things seem to be happening at unusual times this fall, so perhaps this stage also will be early, or even late. During this period bucks may fight. They will scrape and rub. All of this is in anticipation of the rut, probably not something they think about, more so nature preparing them.
Changes we observe now may not be big changes in relation to the rut, but they can be exciting nonetheless. In my case, today when I checked one of my trail cameras in one of the Pennsylvania counties that borders Ohio, a new buck made an appearance. For that big-buck country it is not a great buck, but in comparison to the big-woods bucks that occupy most of my time, it is impressive. Notice in the photo the length of the tines, and the thickness of its waist. The latter is a good sign that this is a buck of at least 4-1/2 years of age. Over the next couple weeks its neck should get thicker. And I am 99% certain that bigger bucks will be in this area, if not right now, when bucks start to do more roaming.
That nice 8-point was photographed on that big scrape I have been watching. Other than a couple photos of this buck, the only visitor to the scrape over the past 1-1/2 weeks was a doe. Hmmm? I am very perplexed by this.
I would be very surprised to hear that anyone has seen a buck still in velvet over the past few days. If you do see velvet it may be an antlered doe or an injured buck.
I will have my grunt tube and rattling bag at the ready when I am in my tree stand this week, and I will be standing on a feeding area, or along a connector trail.