With many more hunters in the woods now, deer on the ground are telling tales. A very even 8-point with a 20-inch spread was taken by Abe Byler while bowhunting this past Tuesday in northwest Pennsylvania, about a mile from the New York border. Byler was not using any hunting tactics specific to the rut. His stand was by a game trail in territory he knows well. Once he had his buck on the ground, though, he found evidence of the rut. The back of the deer was severely scarred, obvious wounds from fighting with another buck.

Although actually seeing bucks fighting is an unusual experience, many bucks bear the wounds of fighting. Some wounds are terrible.

I’ve seen fewer big bucks this fall than I have during the past few autumns. This appears to be the case with hunters in other parts of our Northeast Region, though no one has been complaining.

Over the weekend, Syracuse bowhunter Christopher Smith, who sent the photo of bucks sparring seen in the previous rut report, notified me that he had one of those bucks 22 yards from his stand, but he spooked the buck while trying to get into position to shoot. Smith found a fresh rub that same day.

T.J. Danielson had an early end to his Pennsylvania archery season. Hunting the second week of the season, the young bowhunter downed the very nice 9-point buck shown here. Danielson was hunting near his home on the western edge of Northcentral Pennsylvania’s “Big Woods” region. He had not scouted any scrapes or rubs in the area. He chose to hunt where he did based on trail camera pictures. A nearby food plot was also factored in.

At 5:30 p.m., the buck came to the edge of the field, 20 yards from Danielson’s position.


“He was one of the bucks I wanted to take,” Danielson said.

With Danielson’s arrow passing through both lungs, he did not have to trail his trophy far. It was laying about 80 yards from where it was hit by the arrow.

The buck weighed 189 pounds after being field dressed. It was aged at 3 ½ years.

“The left side is perfect,” Danielson said. “The other side is screwed up.”

Bowhunters sometimes display their over-anxiousness at about this time by pushing rut hunting tactics too soon. Standing by rubs or scrapes is frustrating because they are usually visited by bucks at night. Be sure to check the time bucks hit those scrapes on your trail camera.

With each passing day, the likelihood of encountering a hot doe that is attracting bucks improves.