One would think that reports of fighting bucks in the previous post would mark the end of the fighting in our area, considering how late in the year it has been occurring here in northwest Pennsylvania. But that’s not the case.
Monday, November 26 was the first day of the Pennsylvania regular statewide firearms deer season. With my wife, Jeri, we hunted in Crawford County, which is gently rolling, checkerboard habitat not far from the Ohio border. Our hunting area is a large wood lot between pastures, crop fields, and overgrown fields.
Late in the morning there was shooting from an elevated blind, which is in the middle of a large pasture. When I walked to the site where hunters were standing around a deer on the ground, I saw that the buck was one which I had photographed on my trail cameras, a modest 8-point. But now, a few days after the most recent time it was photographed, one of the tines had been broken. Still more fighting.
Mike Stimmell, having filled his Pennsylvania buck tag during bow season, walked to a spot where he had planned to hunt with his rifle. He only saw a few does and fawns, but something else made the day more eventful. Near the bottom of a valley he saw two sets of deer tracks come together. An area 15 feet to 20 feet in diameter was all torn up and muddy. Saplings had been pulled out by the roots. Scattered around in the mud were numerous clumps of hair and splatters of blood. Tracks made skid marks, where one buck had been pushed by the other.
The fight had happened, Stimmell said, either the previous night or early that morning.
From mid-Maine, Steve Carpenteri reports that there are no new rubs or scrapes in his area. Most of that activity took place before Hurricane Sandy. During two weeks of hunting in Maine, he did not see a single deer. Low deer density must be factored into everything in the North Woods. According to his trail cameras there are still a few nice bucks around, but they are showing themselves around 3:00 a.m.
Hunters from all over our region are calling this an unusual rut year. “I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Ray Weasner, owner of Weasner Archery Pro Shop, in Bloomville, Ohio, which is in the northwest part of the state.
Weasner found one scrape today, but scrapes and rubs have been scarce, compared to most years. He has seen very little rutting activity of any kind, and he is afield just about every day. Some of his customers have reported seeing bucks chasing does, but it lasts only a couple days. One sign that many does have not been bred, Weasner pointed out, is that most does are still with their fawns. He has not seen any bucks chasing does. Usually he sees bucks doing what he calls cruising, which is roaming in search of hot does. This year it has not been happening.
There is a bright side. If there is no distinct peak, and if the rut is drawn out more than usual, then we get to hunt rutting deer longer than usual.